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Australia's tour to Zimbabwe : A complicated issue

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Cricket Australia must be breathing a sigh of relief as they're off the hook - the Australian government has banned the Zimbabwe tour. PM John Howard waxes on the subject:

 "The government, through the foreign minister, has written to the organization of Cricket Australia instructing that the tour not go ahead. We don't do this lightly, but we are convinced that for the tour to go ahead there would be an enormous propaganda boost to the (President Robert) Mugabe regime. The Mugabe regime is behaving like the Gestapo towards its political opponents. The living standards in the country are probably the lowest of any in the world, you have an absolutely unbelievable rate of inflation. I have no doubt that if this tour goes ahead it will be an enormous boost to this grubby dictator.

It's pretty obvious to me that the players and the body wanted to act in conformity with public opinion but in the end, not surprisingly, they wanted a situation where the decision was taken by the government and not the players. I don't think it's fair to leave a foreign policy decision of this magnitude on the shoulders of young sportsmen. It's much better, in the end, for the government to take the rap. I hope the rest of the cricketing world understands that and it would be a very good idea if the rest of the cricket world adopted the same attitude towards Mugabe's regime. I'm not going to stand around and allow some kind of aid and comfort be given to him by the greatest cricketing team in the world visiting his country.

This country is a disaster. It has an appalling HIV-AIDS problem, its living standards have sunk to rock bottom, it's got an inflation rate which reminds you of the
Weimar (Republic), pre-Nazi Germany which we read about in our history books. It's an appalling situation."

 

There's been a lot of voices weighing in on this matter recently. John Coomber at the Courier Mail argued against a government ban. If the government bans Australia from playing, it will open up a can of worms for future sporting events. Does our Olympic team go to Beijing considering China's history of human rights violations? What about Pakistan's military government? This is a complicated issue as where do you draw the line that a country crosses before we refuse to tour there? I can't honestly answer that question but one thing is certain. Where ever that line is, Robert Mugabe has left it far behind.

There have been suggestions that Australia should tour but protest Mugabe while they're there. That way, the "propaganda coup" for Mugabe would be turned on its head and
Zimbabwe's situation would be even further highlighted. Great idea in theory. Only problem - I doubt whether the Australian cricketers would have the inclination or the nads to go against Mugabe in his own country.

The Zimbabwe Independent says Zimbabwe’s young and inexperienced cricketers need Australia more than Mugabe does and the tour should go ahead. But Cricket
Australia have side-stepped this issue, offering to play the team in a neutral country. This way, everyone can have their cake and eat it too.

So while John Howard has the rhetoric cranked on high, invoking Godwin's Law not once but twice in the one speech (although the comparisons are apt), in the end this is the right thing to do. It may be that a part of Howard's posturing is for the sake of the election at the end of the year. Regardless of his motives, justice is done. You know when the opposition agrees with Howard in an election year, it's a no-brainer.

 

(John Cook is a professional cartoonist/web designer and cricket tragic based in Australia. An avid Australian cricket fan, John Cook doesn't claim in anyway to be impartial, informed or even rational. On the contrary, he will happily take every opportunity to go the sledge in true Aussie tradition.)


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