|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The 10-man delegation, headed by ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, arrives on Tuesday to review security arrangements for the teams scheduled to play in Harare and Bulawayo.
Malcolm Speed, ICC chief executive
Malcolm Gray, ICC president
James Sutherland, Australian Cricket Board
SK Nair, Indian Cricket Board
Tim Lamb, England and Wales Cricket Board
Ian Frykberg, Golbal Cricket Corporation
Hans Mulder, Dutch Cricket Board
Laurie Peters, Namibian Cricket Board
Chishty Mujahid, Pakistan Cricket Board
Vince Hogg, Zimbabwe Cricket Union
Tim May, Federation of International Cricket Associations
"The Zimbabwe Cricket Union is a full member of the ICC and has the right to host these games.
"Nevertheless, it is clear that in some countries there are genuine safety and security concerns that need to be addressed," said Speed.
Although South Africa is hosting the World Cup, six first round group matches are due to be played in Zimbabwe and two in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Zimbabwe was expelled from the Commonwealth earlier this year and Australia subsequently cancelled their scheduled tour.
Tensions in the country have remained high because of the Zimbabwean government's controversial land reform programme.
But the Pakistan team are currently on tour in Zimbabwe and the first two one-day internationals passed without incident.
"The political issues surrounding Zimbabwe are matters for politicians," said ICC president Malcolm Gray.
"Each ICC member scheduled to play in Zimbabwe has committed to playing there subject to satisfactory of any safety and security concerns. It is these issues that the delegation will focus on."
The ICC is keen to avoid a repeat of the situation during the 1996 World Cup when Australia and West Indies refused to travel to Sri Lanka because of safety concerns, choosing instead to forfeit the matches.
Hamburgers, beer, teargas and riot police
This is what's predicted during the Zimbabwe/Pakistan One Day games due to start in Harare on 27 November. Fear is beginning to permeate the Zimbabwean cricket fraternity as rumours of violence surface on the streets.
Calls for a boycott of the cricket tour have been getting louder and louder with many Zimbabweans criticising Heath Streak, the Zimbabwe Cricket Captain's recent comments when he declared that "There are no problems in Zimbabwe. Security is fine."
Tell that to the thousands of torture victims and displaced farmers and farm workers, say local activists.
Ironically, President Robert Mugabe, the man blamed for the violence and poverty that has engulfed Zimbabwe, is the Patron of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union.
Zimbabweans have few opportunities to vent their frustration and to show the world just how desperate the situation is in Zimbabwe. So, it looks like all hell will break loose at Harare Sports Club when the Pakistan and Zimbabwean cricket teams take to the field.
Perhaps it's just as well that many cricket supporters have opted for satellite television in a bid to reject the state-controlled propaganda. At least they can watch the games from the safety of their homes.
From The Times (UK), 25 November
The true cost of a by-election vote
From Jan Raath in Harare
The wealthy owner of a milling company linked to a blackmarket in meal is tipped to be the ruling Zanu PF party’s candidate in a by-election caused by the death in prison of a popular opposition MP. David Mutasa is likely to contest the Harare township of Kuwadzana. Its former MP, Learnmore Jongwe, of the Movement for Democratic Change, died last month. Mr Mutasa is already campaigning hard. Last week he was offering 10kg of mealiemeal, a loaf of bread and a cabbage at controlled prices. The catch is that purchase is possible only on production of a Zanu PF party card. A black market in maize meal, Zimbabweans’ staple diet, was described last week by Physicians for Human Rights, a group of independent Danish doctors: imported grain is stored by the state-controlled cereal monopoly, whose premises are controlled by secret police and youth militias; the grain is allocated to selected milling companies controlled by Zanu PF businessmen. It is then sold only to party card-holders. The strategy is being used to withhold food from urban areas in much the same way he is starving opposition supporters in the rural areas.
From the Observer (UK), 24 November
How a perfect English gent in a rural idyll profits from a bloody African war
Antony Barnett and Paul Harris
To people in the peaceful Wiltshire village of Brigmerston, their new neighbour seems like a perfect English gentleman: a tall, wealthy, bespectacled former Army officer. But an Observer investigation has uncovered evidence that behind the doors of a luxury house on the edge of the village, Andrew Smith runs a business empire which has made a fortune from a bloody African civil war that has claimed millions of lives. Smith, 49, a former captain of the Royal Engineers, who runs his firm Avient from his home, faces claims that one of his companies was involved in mercenary-style operations deep in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also faces allegations that he has been trading with a notorious arms dealer, Ukrainian-born Leonid Minin. A United Nations report has accused Smith of organising bombing raids in the DRC on behalf of President Joseph Kabila to suppress rebel forces. It is alleged that three years ago Avient received $30,000 a month for recruiting crew from Ukraine to fly in Russian-made Antonovs behind enemy lines in 1999 and 2000. One Avient contract signed by Kabila stated: 'The crew will be advised that they will be operating along and behind the enemy lines in support of ground troops and against invading forces. It is specifically agreed that the crew...will undertake airdropping missions.' The affair has clear overtones of dogs-of-war style mercenary activity. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb has asked the British authorities to investigate the claims to see if there are grounds for a criminal prosecution. 'I want to know how a British citizen with a company operating from Wiltshire can be involved in such military activities without breaking any law,' he said.
Smith, who is contesting the UN claims, ran his African business through his Avient company registered in Zimbabwe. In this way Smith would have been able to avoid breaching the European Union arms embargo against the DRC put in place in 1993. Any investigation is likely to study closely UN claims that Smith has a relationship with Minin, a senior member of a Russian organised crime syndicate, who is under investigation in five countries for crimes from gun running to art theft. Two years ago Minin was arrested in an Italian police raid on a hotel in northern Italy where he was found with 58 grams of cocaine, four prostitutes and $500,000 worth of African diamonds. Police also discovered a green briefcase stuffed with 1,500 pages of documents detailing numerous arms deals, including illegal sales to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Observer has obtained bank records found in Minin's briefcase which detail payments made by one of Minin's associate companies. These documents reveal that on 22 June 1999 Avient received a $100,500 payment from Engineering & Technical, a British Virgin Islands firm run by Minin's business associate Valery Cherny.
The UN also accuses Smith of brokering the sale of six attack helicopters to the DRC government in April this year. Smith strongly denies this allegation. However, he did admit in an interview with The Observer to shipping military cargo to the Congolese government on behalf of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe three years ago. Smith said: 'We have worked with the governments of Zimbabwe and the DRC who are official organised governments of countries. We certainly don't work for any rebel groups or any terrorists.' Smith played down his role in the alleged bombing raids, saying the Congo 'military hierarchy' controlled the air crews and directed operations. He denied his company was a private military company involved in any bombing raids, stressing that it was principally a cargo-carrying business dealing mainly with commodities like food and computers. But Smith has admitted to 'ferrying troops and people from place to place' and leasing Russian-made transport aircraft to the Zimbabwean government for use in Congo.
He said: 'I am not denying that we carried military equipment for the end-user governments, which is a perfectly legal operation to do. We are talking about three years ago. I did check everything with the British High Commissioner at the time. We have never been involved in the sale of goods at all, nor have we carried any military hardware out of the EC, so we have not broken any UN or EU embargoes.' Smith also denied any relationship with Minin. He said: 'I have never met the guy, spoken to him or communicated with him.' Smith's claims that he received the approval of the British High Commission could be embarrassing for the Government as there has been an arms embargo against the DRC since 1993. Lamb is to raise the matter in the House of Commons. 'If it's true that the High Commission OK'd such deals, I want to know why,' said Lamb. The disclosures that a former British soldier is helping military operations in central Africa will embarrass the Government. In the 1998 'arms for Africa' affair it emerged that Sandline International, run by former British colonel Tim Spicer, had supplied weapons to Sierra Leone despite a UN arms embargo. Spicer avoided prosecution after it was revealed the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone had approved Sandline's plans. Smith's involvement in military operations in Congo is also likely to be a setback for government plans to license mercenary companies. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw claims such firms could be used in UN peace-keeping operations and other government-sponsored activities in trouble spots.