The Zimbabwean cricket boycott: what should be the motives?

17 February 2003
WITH the eighth cricket World Cup in full swing at the time of going to press, the long-running saga of whether or not matches would be played in Zimbabwe or Kenya (with valuable points possibly being forfeited by the England and New Zealand teams) was coming to its controversial conclusion.

The dispute came to a head earlier in the month when the England team's final appeal against the International Cricket Council's (ICC) refusal to move the game was rejected by an independent commissioner.

The England camp's concerns range from personal security issues, to the ethical dilemma of playing in a country whose government's rule is in direct conflict with international human rights policies.

UCT lecturer in the Department of Political Studies, Professor Robert Schrire says that in his opinion the British government and the England cricket team have handled the situation inadequately.

“They have not taken a particular position and have thus been totally inconsistent. The British government and the England cricket team should have at an early stage taken an unambiguous stand with other Commonwealth countries – either to play or not to play in Zimbabwe.”

Schrire says that international sports bodies have yet to make consistent decisions and formulate policies about how they will punish rogue regimes when it comes to sport.

“Does an international sports body punish rogue regimes by not playing sport against them in their countries? If we take that as the principle then we have a real, major crisis in international sport because a large number of states would fail the test, for example, Pakistan and Australia.

“Australia's immigration policies and their treatment of refugees has long been the subject of debate. And Pakistan is an outright dictatorship.”

In the case of Zimbabwe, Schrire says that important questions that have yet to be addressed are: does playing Zimbabwe help or weaken Mugabe's regime? He says in his opinion the cricket community should be asking: what is in the interest of cricket? “In the broader sense, what are the values of the sport? Cricket epitomises certain values and I think they need to think them through,” he added.

“At the moment it is a certain amoral position where they say politics and sports don't mix. But I think that they need to develop fundamental principles that cricket is a sport which represents and seeks to advance fair play, co–operation and so on, and therefore it should only be played against other teams and countries that share those particular values.”

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