Former Test player bailed on arson charges

Mark Vermeulen has been granted bail by the Magistrate Court judge in Harare. He appeared charged with arson after a fire at the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy in the Highlands district of the capital.
He was asked to pay $500,000 (US$2000) as bail and also had to lodge deeds to his property with the court. His Zimbabwe passport was also confiscated.

Vermeulen has to report to Harare's Highlands Police Station everyday during his bail term, and he will have to seek special permission to travel outside a 40km radius of Harare. He is prohibited from going near any Zimbabwe Cricket property.

Vermeulen, who said that he was forced to confess, was in a relaxed mood and chatted to friends and guards. His brother, Roland, and Andy Blignaut were in court and it is believed that Blignaut helped him to raise the bail money.

Outlining the prosecution case, state attorney Tawanda Zvekare said Vermeulen had threatened to "destroy" the governing body (ZC) after being told to play for a local club to have his form assessed before he could be considered for selection for an upcoming tour of Bangladesh. "This did not go down well with the accused who verbally threatened that he was going to destroy Zimbabwe Cricket in two weeks," Zvekare explained.

He first tried to set fire to the association's boardroom at the Harare Sports Club ground on Monday by sprinkling methylated spirit on the curtains and then setting it alight, said Zvekare. But when that fire caused only minor damage, he went the next day to the training academy where he managed to burn down the pavilion.

Vermeulen was not asked to enter a plea but his lawyer, David Dhumbura, complained to the court that his client had been forced to "make indications to the police without the presence of his defence team."