Bacher backs Zimbabwe isolation
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.
"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.