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Bacher backs Zimbabwe isolation

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Mihir Bose | 10:00 UK time, Thursday, 10 July 2008

Ali Bacher, the former head of South African cricket, has added his voice to those demanding a sporting boycott of Zimbabwe, calling for a "sustained and concerted" campaign of isolation to help bring President Mugabe's regime to its knees.

Bacher, the last captain of the white South African cricket team which existed before sporting sanctions were imposed for the country's racist sporting policies, told me: "Look at our own history.

"During the apartheid years the majority of South Africa's white sporting community held the view that sport and politics should not mix. But (prominent anti-apartheid campaigner) Hassan Howa was right when he said that there can be no normal sport in an abnormal society.

"You cannot separate sport from the society it is played in. As a nation, we were forced to confront our own demons and change the society we lived in."

Bacher knows all about sanctions. He was the leading figure in the fight by white South Africa to defy sanctions though rebel tours and then, as the political climate changed, did much to bring South African cricket together and restore it to the international fold.

South Africa and England have led the way by formally cutting ties with Zimbabwean cricket while the current political turmoil continues.

"It was not just cricket, or even sporting, isolation that forced change in South Africa, but it played a role," added Bacher.

"I think that the stand that Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have taken should be applauded.

Dave Richardson, acting chief executive of ICC, David Morgan ICC President elect, and ICC President Ray Mali

"Tragically, north of the South Africa border, we have a regime that has brutalised, intimidated, raped and killed to hold on to power.

"I strongly believe that only a concerted and sustained campaign will bring true democracy to Zimbabwe.

"President Mugabe has shown that he will not go quietly, and innocent Zimbabweans and his political opponents have been made to suffer.

"South Africa's own recent history is proof enough. What brought the National Party to its knees? Very simply, it was sustained and continual international isolation. Only a concerted international isolation campaign - whether it is economic, cultural, sporting or diplomatic pressure - will bring normality to Zimbabwe.

"As sportsmen we have to do our bit. If isolating the cricketers that represent our neighbours is what it takes, then it is a small sacrifice."

While the CSA's decision to end its links with Zimbabwean cricket did not lead to the International Cricket Council (ICC) following the British government's call for a similar policy from all Test-playing countries, it did lead to Zimbabwe withdrawing from the ICC World Twenty20 due to be held in England next summer.

South Africa's decision was inspired by the speech made in June by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, at an MCC lecture at Lord's, where he strongly urged the ICC to isolate Zimbabwe cricket.

"I have to, regrettably, agree with the esteemed Archbishop," concluded Bacher.

Bacher was in charge of the 2003 World Cup played in South Africa, which required several Test paying countries - including England - to play matches in Zimbabwe.

While India and Australia played there, England refused following a players' revolt and lost out on the points for the pool game.

Although Bacher did not talk about that issue, I understand from people close to him that he was tormented during the tournament by the thought that South Africa had to share the hosting of matches with Zimbabwe. Had it been left to him alone he would not have wanted any matches to be played there.

But the World Cup belonged to the ICC. And it was made abundantly clear to Bacher that as tournament director of an ICC event, he could do nothing.

But now, freed from those onerous responsibilities, he can more openly speak his mind about the situation on his doorstep and the need for action.


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  • 1. At 12:42pm on 10 Jul 2008, manucastle wrote:

    I believe it took more than 20 years of isolation from international cricket before south africa was re-instated.
    Zimbabwe needs quicker solution.. I do not believe that isolation from cricket will make Mr. Mugabe to turn to democracy overnight.

    However, I do acknowledge that isolation from not just every sport but all ways of life (ecluding Humanitarian aids) and tigher controls from all world bodies will certainly make large difference and that cricket should be the starting point in that direction, not just an exception.

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  • 2. At 7:16pm on 10 Jul 2008, Rob wrote:

    Quite right Mr Bacher.

    Here's hoping the world follows your lead. Men like Mandela and Tutu don't come out with the forcible comments they do without good reason.

    Sad if Zimbabwean cricket does suffer further but the bigger picture must be considered.

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  • 3. At 09:11am on 11 Jul 2008, MontyPanesar wrote:

    Banning Zim will make no difference to Mugabe.

    Its only cricket!

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  • 4. At 1:42pm on 11 Jul 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    "I understand from people close to him [Bacher] that he was tormented during the tournament by the thought that South Africa had to share the hosting of matches with Zimbabwe."

    I don't know what you mean. Somebody close to Ali Bacher? A family member? Someone stood behind him in a queue? Why would this someone or someones tell a BBC journalist anything? And, it is odd that these someones don't seem to have names? Very odd. I don't understand why a person stood behind Bacher in a queue, close to him, would have no name and then tell a BBC journalist about Bacher's tormented feelings - in fact, how would such a person know? It's all very strange indeed. Perhaps it was a ghost?

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  • 5. At 10:09am on 17 Sep 2008, ApratimMukherjee wrote:

    I want to ask a simple question.
    What is the fault of ZCU if Zimbabwe is in crisis?
    Isolating them will not solve the problem.
    A way out is teams play against Zimbabwe with their home grounds in South Africa for the present time.

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