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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Call for ban on Zimbabwe cricket
Zimbabwe's Brendan Taylor plays a shot during the series vs New Zealand
Zimbabwe recently played New Zealand
Zimbabwe should be barred from competing in international cricket events say senior UK ministers.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell have written to the sport's governing body calling for a boycott.

The two cabinet members drew attention to the worsening human rights abuses in Zimbabwe in a letter to the International Cricketing Council (ICC).

The Conservatives backed the decision but say it is "too little too late".

Mr Straw and Ms Jowell want the ICC to send out a strong message to President Robert Mugabe.

Their letter asks "if the ICC could reflect on the current situation and take a view on whether or not they see international cricket fixtures against and/or in Zimbabwe to be appropriate while such widespread human rights abuses are taking place".

President Mugabe's regime has attracted widespread condemnation for its 'Drive Out Rubbish' slum clearance programme which has seen 700,000 people lose their homes.

Government crackdown

The Zimbabwean government claims it is cracking down on black market trading and other criminal activities in the slum areas.

But opponents suggest it is a punishment campaign against urban residents who rejected Mugabe in recent elections.

The UK government was criticised last year for failing to prevent the England cricket team's tour of Zimbabwe.

The government maintained it had not supported the trip but was unable to act against it because they could have been sued.

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have questioned the timing of the government's intervention.

Jack Straw and Tessa Jowell
The government wants to send a powerful signal to Mugabe

Shadow culture secretary Theresa May said: "This really is welcome news, but it just smacks of being too little too late.

"Why didn't the Government do it last year? Last year, when England were about to tour Zimbabwe, the Government failed to take a strong stance. That was the time when it was needed. That was the time when a strong stance would have had a real impact.

"We aren't going to tour Zimbabwe for another four years. Why is the Government doing this now?"

"The point about condemning evil is to take the tough decision at the critical point, when they can have the most effect. It is extremely sad when sport, which can do so much good in the world, should be dragged in to politics.

"But no one can believe that it is right to go on playing cricket when innocent women and children are being killed and starved to death."

The Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell was broadly supportive of the letter to the ICC but wondered why they were concerned only with cricket.

"Zimbabwe has a large number of other international affiliations in a variety of sports," he said.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Zimbabwe
01 Jul 05 |  Country profiles


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