2009 tour under threat January 13, 2008

More calls for government to ban Zimbabwe

Cricinfo staff

Former Zimbabwe fast bowler Henry Olonga has added his voice to those calling for the British government to ban Zimbabwe from touring in 2009.

Speculation has been growing in the last week that the British government would tell Zimbabwe that their side would not be given visa to tour in May and June next year when they are scheduled to play one-day internationals and possibly two Tests. In the past, the government has stopped short of taking any direct action, preferring to leave the decision to the ECB, but since Gordon Brown became prime minister, the official line has hardened.

Olonga was reacting to comments made by Peter Chingoka, the Zimbabwe Cricket chairman, to the effect that it was for the ICC to step in to force countries to meet their obligations under the Future Tours Programme.

"Banning tours brought South Africa's dreadful apartheid regime into the public consciousness around the world," he told the Mail on Sunday. "It was the right thing to do then, and it is as valid now in Zimbabwe. I would rather inconvenience a small group of Zimbabwe cricketers for the greater good of millions who could ultimately benefit."

Olonga's comments were backed by Kate Hoey, the former sports minister and the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Zimbabwe. "Cricket is the way that Mugabe has shown that Zimbabwe is a normal country, and his relationship with the ZC chairman, who the British government quite rightly refused to give a visa to come to this country to, is close.

"The money that has gone into cricket has not gone to grassroots in Zimbabwe, it's gone into the pockets of those running the game and indirectly into the pockets of Zanu PF [Mugabe's party].

"It would send out a message, and the opposition would love to see a ban of the kind which worked in South Africa," she told the BBC. "We should not allow them to come here and swan around the boardrooms of our clubs."