Three cricketers forced to cut off dreadlocks

Zimbabwe board accused of human-rights abuse

Steven Price in Harare

February 5, 2007

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As exclusively reported by Cricinfo last week, three members of the Zimbabwe national side have been forced to shave their dreadlocks after being given an ultimatum by the Zimbabwe board to do so or be dropped.

The trio - Tawanda Mupariwa, Christopher Mpofu and Keith Dabengwa - all complied, albeit under protest, and the Zimbabwe Times now reports that the demands have caused outrage among others in the side.

"I had to comply with ZC because they say it is a new dress code," one unnamed player told the newspaper. "There was nothing I could do because refusing meant I would be out on the final squad to the World Cup. If you ask me, this is gross human rights abuse but I need to look after my family. Cricket is my job and I cannot risk my job for dreadlocks."

Kevin Curran, Zimbabwe's beleaguered coach, refused to react, telling the paper: "I will not comment on those matters. Talk to the authorities."

The new dress code was introduced days after Peter Chingoka was re-elected as Zimbabwe Cricket's chairman. Critics point out that the side, which has now lost 13 consecutive ODIs, have greater worries than the hairstyles of the players. There is already unrest over the fact that players are paid in worthless Zimbabwe dollars while it is widely claimed that others, including administrators, are paid in US dollars.

This reflects a more widespread policy called Pfekazvakanaka (which means "dress well" in Shona), a rigid dress code, inside Zimbabwe being enforced by the ruling Zanu-PF party.

At the moment the country's supreme court is considering the case of a seven-year-old Rastafarian boy who was expelled from school for having dreadlocks. There are other instances of men with dreadlocks being accosted by the police and being forced to shave them off. It seems ZC's latest move is more evidence of that its leadership is merely aping the wishes of the government.

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