Foreign Office wanted visa refused June 20, 2007

Chingoka avoids visa ban

Richard Caborn: accused of 'unprincipled manoeuvring' in insisting that Peter Chingoka be allowed into the UK © Getty Images
Peter Chingoka, the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, will be in London for the ICC executive meeting next week despite an attempt by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to have him refused an entry visa to the UK.

The British Embassy in Harare recommended to the FCO in London that Chingoka be refused admission to the UK on account of his associations with the government of Robert Mugabe. The FCO rubber-stamped this but Cricinfo has learned that the ban was blocked by Richard Caborn, the sports minister, as he feared that any such move could jeopardise the bid to have David Morgan, the ECB chairman, elected as ICC president in 2008.

The Foreign Office compromised and have only given Chingoka a visa for five days. He cannot start his journey until Monday, June 25 and must be out of the country by Saturday, June 30. This will enable him to attend the directors' meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, and the ICC annual meeting which follows, but that's all.

An ECB spokesman told Cricinfo that the board "had not discussed the issue with the FCO" and that it "was solely a government decision" to limit the entry visa. A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that they "did not comment on individual visa cases".

Kate Hoey, Caborn's predecessor as sports minister and the chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, told Cricinfo that she was "disappointed" with Caborn's intervention. "Zimbabwe's cricket officials are at the heart of the dictatorship's web of corruption and political oppression. It is sad that the sports ministry has used Morgan's chances - which are really no chance at all - of becoming ICC president to ask the FCO to go against their better judgment and grant a visa. This sort of unprincipled manoeuvring looks very bad when we are asking other countries to stand firm in isolating those at the heart of Mugabe's regime.

We were meant to have an ethical foreign policy... that needs to include an ethical sports policy too

Former sports minister Kate Hoey

"We were meant to have an ethical foreign policy... that needs to include an ethical sports policy too."

As long ago as July 2004, Lord Avebery raised a request in the House of Lords that Chingoka and Ozias Bvute, Zimbabwe Cricket's managing director who is expected to attend the ICC meetings next week, be barred from entering the European Union as "close supporters and collaborators of the [Mugabe] regime".

Chingoka, whose son and wife are believed to be in London, usually stays for some time either side of the meeting, as do many officials from other boards, but on this occasion he will have to leave the UK almost immediately after the conclusion of the AGM.

  • We were unable to get a comment from Zimbabwe Cricket as it refuses to reply to media queries from Cricinfo.

    Steven Price is a freelance journalist based in Harare; Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

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