While we’d all like to believe that sport and politics shouldn’t mix we inevitably find that they do. Generally it’s politics pushing it’s way and forcing itself on sport. The issue of Zimbabwe is one where it seems that opinion is divided almost evenly about whether politics should gatecrash sport. But what should be done?
England have pulled out of touring Zimbabwe, South Africa have cancelled their agreement with Zimbabwe, an agreement that saw Zimbabwe take part in South African domestic cricket, New Zealand have said that they will tour, unless otherwise told, Pakistan A have likewise said they will go to Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe have pulled out of next years T20 World Cup in England – after being told their players and officials would not receive visa’s. India have put their power behind not excluding Zimbabwe from the ICC and removing their status. Is all of this necessary?
It took over 20 years for when South Africa was barred from international sport to the ending of Apartheid. In the end sport did not matter or make much of a dent. The ruling party had to cave in in the end, but it was not because of sport that they did. The difference here is that South Africa’s discriminatory laws were voted in and practised by many of the minority white population, year after year. The Zimbabwe situation is different. A dictator and his party are forcing themselves on the people and will not go away.
The threat of sanctions is a popular option by many in the west but it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. Mugabe does not care about the people of Zimbabwe. Sanctions will harm and kill the people, while Mugabe will be unaffected. So why would he care if sanctions were forced on the country?
The same applies to sport. What ever the ICC or individual countries apply with respect to Zimbabwean cricket will not effect or harm Mugabe in the least. It will have no affect at all on the worsening situation in the country, in terms of a solution, but will harm the Zimbabwean people. South African players have said that they will not tour Zimbabwe. This is all acceptable as it is their safety that is at stake. So if any sportsman says that they will not tour on safety grounds then this must be accepted. Politically they should not have a say. Zimbabwean sports teams should be allowed to continue to tour other countries. The players need to earn a living in a country that food and basics are alarmingly scarce and expensive. Denying them this right is hurting them and their families, while Mugabe continues to live it up at their expense.
Robert Mugabe does not care about the people of Zimbabwe. That much is evident. Sanctions and sporting bans do not effect him but only the people of Zimbabwe, and he will not budge to help them. Sanctions and sporting bans are not the solution to this problem, and thus should not be implemented. The Zimbabwean cricket players should not be prevented from earning a living when it does no good at all to the situation in the country. They are not at fault and should not be made to pay for the madness and brutality of one man.