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Last Updated:  Monday, 10 February, 2003, 16:53 GMT
Zimbabwe duo break ranks
By Telford Vice
from Harare

It promised to begin like any game of cricket, which was amazing enough in itself.

All the agonising about security and protests came down to groups of people converging on Harare Sports Club with a singular, unthreatening purpose: to watch Zimbabwe's World Cup match against Namibia.

But, moments before the players took the field, the atmosphere changed.

Andy Flower
Flower is Zimbabwe's greatest ever batsman

A sheet of paper was handed to each journalist in the pressbox and printed on it was a statement signed by Andy Flower and Henry Olonga.

"It is a great honour for us to take the field today to play for Zimbabwe in the World Cup," it began gently.

But the tone soon changed.

"We cannot in good conscience take to the field and ignore the fact that millions of our compatriots are starving, unemployed and oppressed.

"We are aware that hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans may even die in the coming months through a combination of starvation, poverty and Aids.

"We are aware that many people have been unjustly imprisoned and tortured simply for expressing their opinions about what is happening in the country.

"We have heard a torrent of racist hate speech directed at minority groups. We are aware that thousands of Zimbabweans are routinely denied their right to freedom of expression.

"We are aware that people have been murdered, raped, beaten and had their homes destroyed because of their beliefs and that many of those responsible have not been prosecuted."

An excellent lead shown by Flower and Olonga in wearing the black armbands
John, UK

The list of charges went on - and the pair also vowed to wear a black armband to mourn "the death of democracy".

The courage of their words took many a hardened hack's breath away, and in an instant they were winging their way around the world.

But, the question was soon asked, what now?

It is common knowledge that Flower plans to retire from international cricket after the World Cup to concentrate on playing county cricket in England.

So he does not have a playing future to plunge into doubt.

Olonga, though, does presumably want to play for Zimbabwe again.

Will he be able to?

The Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU), at whose door the questions were laid, said as little as possible.

"The ZCU has noted the statement by two Zimbabwe players: Andrew Flower and Henry Olonga," a statement read.

"The issue is being considered by the appropriate committee of the ZCU. As soon as the committee makes its decision, the ZCU will issue a statement.

"In the meantime the union reiterates its position that it is a non-political organisation."

Could any two statements differ more?




WATCH AND LISTEN
South African journalist Telford Vice
"The atmosphere around the ground changed dramatically"



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