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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 January, 2004, 09:04 GMT
Q&A: England's Zimbabwe tour
England are expected to make a final decision whether to commit to an autumn cricket tour of Zimbabwe by the end of February.

They pulled out of playing a World Cup match there last year and are expected to do the same in this instance.

Here we look at the pros and cons of abandoning the tour.

Q. Why shouldn't England tour Zimbabwe?

A. Zimbabwe's opposition says that the tour should be called off because of alleged human rights abuses by the government of President Robert Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe
Mugabe is one of the most loathed men in world politics

In recent years, hundreds of opposition activists have been arrested for trying to hold demonstrations and allegedly tortured by state security agents.

They say that pro-government militias attack and sometimes kill or rape opposition activists with impunity.

Some of this violence has been associated with the government's seizure of most of the land which had been owned by white farmers.

They also say he has rigged the last two elections and western observers backed that view.

The government has passed several laws, giving it wide powers to stop marches and has closed down the only privately-owned daily newspaper.

Q. Would a boycott make a difference?

A. Mr Mugabe says the opposition are a front for the white farmers, backed by the former colonial power Britain, who he blames for much of his problems.

He might use any boycott to back up this argument.

But he is a keen cricket fan and part of him would love to see Zimbabwe play (and beat) England.

With apartheid South Africa, the sporting sanctions were widely seen as more effective than the half-hearted trade sanctions which were imposed.

Q. What do people in Zimbabwe think?

A. They divide along political lines.

Supporters of Mr Mugabe agree with him, while those who think it's time he left, and are being oppressed for these beliefs, want the international community to do all they can to put pressure on him.

They blame him for the disastrous economic state Zimbabwe is in, with inflation of more than 600% and the closure of hundreds of businesses and factories, which has led to the loss of thousands of jobs.

But some opposition activists used the Cricket World Cup last year as a platform to publicise the situation in Zimbabwe and would no doubt like another opportunity.

With tight controls on local media and the expulsion of foreign journalists, they welcome any chance to remind the international community of what is going on.

Even if they were arrested last time, pictures of their protests and arrests were beamed around the world.

BBC Five Live's Jonathan Agnew
"This report lists considerations that should be made"

Former Zimbabwean cricketer Henry Olonga
"I think the ECB are very wise to take in public sentiment"

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