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Sport and politics and injustice
Ben Freeth, Justice for
Agriculture (JAG) Open Letter Forum No. 20
January 26, 2003
With the World
Cup Cricket taking place very soon, the debate being played out
in the media and in all our minds is "Should the world's cricketers
play in Zimbabwe or not?"
centres around whether sport and Politics are separate or intrinsically
linked. In an ideal world sport is about sportsmanship and it is
a very healthy pastime in any society. Whether we like it or not
though sport has been hijacked by politics and the two go hand in
hand. Hitler in the 1936 Olympics was very quick to use sport for
his nationalist agenda. He stood in the Olympic arena and made huge
political capital for the Nazi Regime out of those Berlin Olympics.
The communists used sport in a political manner to exactly the same
ends. Huge resources were put towards sport in the communist world
culminating in the Moscow Olympics where many countries decided
that they would Boycott in 1980, after the invasion of Afghanistan.
In more recent
years, during the apartheid regime in South Africa, sport and politics
were one and the same thing in the quest by the world to destroy
the apartheid regime. Any sportsman that dared to play sport in
South Africa was banned from playing sport anywhere else in the
world subsequently. A whole generation of South African sportsmen
were confined to playing sport in their own country and black-listed
from playing sport elsewhere.
The debate to-day
is should the cricketers in the 6 matches that are taking place
in this current world cup next month come to Zimbabwe and play in
the world cup or should they boycott or should they put pressure
on the ICC to remove those matches from Zimbabwe and have them in
South Africa instead?
It is very clear
that in the Zimbabwean situation politics and sport are linked.
The President of Zimbabwe is the Patron of The Zimbabwe Cricket
Union. The cricket is undoubtedly being used as a showpiece to take
the eyes of the world off the terror that is currently reigning
regime is responsible for draconian laws far worse than apartheid
South Africa. It is responsible for severe Human Rights abuses.
It is responsible for the death of 20,000 people in Matebeleland
and it is responsible fully for the deliberate and malicious starvation
of six to eight million people. For the world to endorse the ICC's
decision to come to come to Zimbabwe is to endorse the policies
that the Patron of Zimbabwean cricket is responsible for. The world
has not recognized the March 2002 Presidential elections and the
president of Zimbabwe is, in consequence an illegitimate President.
For the cricketers to come to Zimbabwe would be to legitimise the
illegitimate. In the words of the anti-apartheid campaigners, who
included politicians like Peter Hain "You cannot have normal sport
in an abnormal society".
and the public alike who are coming to watch the match seem to be
intent only on looking after the safety of those players and the
public coming to Zimbabwe to watch the matches.
The safety of
course has to guaranteed by the law enforcement agencies in Zimbabwe.
It is the law enforcement agencies that have been responsible for
the massive deprivation of Human Rights in Zimbabwe; the resultant
starvation; the loss of property rights; and the lack of the freedom
of the Press, the freedom of speech, the freedom of association,
the freedom to earn a living and the freedom to have a home.
is quoted as having said that he wanted cricket to be the way Zimbabweans
functioned in the future, because it's a game about Gentlemen -
about gentlemen and fair play'. That was more than 20 years ago.
In Zimbabwe to-day 'gentlemanly' behaviour is not something that
is enjoyed. The total breakdown of the Rule of Law is about the
total breakdown of 'gentlemanly' behaviour. The principal is a very
simple one - like it or not it's about justice. For the cricketers
and their mealie-mouthed organisations and Nation states to come
to Zimbabwe, they are evidently supporting double standards and
the continuation of injustice. Where South Africa was concerned
they were not prepared to play but where Zimbabwe is concerned with
its huge excesses of ungentlemanly behaviour, they are prepared
to play. That is simply NOT CRICKET.
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