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In a ferocious outburst, Bright Matonga, the junior information minister, slammed Australia's human rights record and accused Howard of being part of a "racist ploy".
"The Australians are mixing politics with sport and the decision shows how desperate the Howard government is to isolate Zimbabwe,'' Matonga told AFP. "Australia is one of the worst human rights violators in this whole world. Look what they have done to the aborigines and yet they have the audacity to stand up and claim to have the moral authority to condemn us.
"This is also a racist ploy to kill our local cricket since our cricket team is now dominated by black players as we slowly transform cricket from being an elite sport. But still we will not lose anything because cricket is not a major sport here.''
Matonga was a journalist for the BBC before being summoned back to work for the ministry of information in Zimbabwe. Ironically, BBC reporters are among those banned by the ministry from entering the country.