Declines captaincy of South Africa A January 19, 2003

Stewart refuses to tour Zimbabwe on moral grounds

Cricinfo staff

Errol Stewart's chances of being understudy to Mark Boucher at next month's World Cup are all but dead after he turned down an invitation to lead the South Africa A side on a three-match tour of Zimbabwe.

"My conscience will not allow me to live in a luxury hotel in a country where people are dying of starvation," Stewart told reporters. "As someone in the legal profession, I am very sensitive about the abuse of human rights and the fact that the Zimbabwean judiciary is put under so much duress.

"I also don't agree at all with the way land is taken away from farmers. Ordinary Zimbabweans are being persecuted and there is no equal distribution of food in that country. Mugabe pays no heed whatsoever to democracy. There is starvation and I would never be able to forgive myself if I support a tyrant like Mugabe by going there to play cricket and give credibility to what he is doing to his people.

"I cannot think how any country could declare themselves willing to go and play there during the World Cup. They don't even have food for their own people. How are they going to provide quality health care in the event of a player or a supporter getting injured?"

Coming on the eve of the World Cup, where Zimbabwe will host matches, and with England a possible no-show for their match in Harare, Stewart's comments will not only embarrass the Zimbabwe authorities but will also anger the South African board.

It is understood Stewart told Omar Henry, the head of the selectors, and Pat Symcox, another selector, that he was not available.

Asked if any other players were likely to follow his lead, Stewart said that he had not heard of any but that he believed others might. He added that doubted his stand would count against me in terms of his future selection for the South African team. "It would be petty if it did," he added.