Scoop Report: Black Caps Would Only Have Filtered Diplomatic Support During Tour
State Of It - By Scoop Co-Editor, Selwyn Manning.
New Zealand's Black Caps Cricket team will be without direct diplomatic support should the planned tour of Zimbabwe go ahead in August. The team will be reliant on a consulate in Pretoria should the players become pawns in a political scrap between Zimbabwe opposition parties and the Mugabe regime.
Scoop understands a lack of direct diplomatic support has had the New Zealand government concerned as it examines indicators of how safe Zimbabwe would be for the touring national cricket side. Scoop also understands that these and other factors were discussed during what was a private meeting between Zimbabwean human rights campaigner, Judith Todd, and New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, on Saturday.
This afternoon, Helen Clark advanced concerns at a post-Cabinet press conference that the New Zealand cricketers could be "caught up in circumstances that could compromise them".
Helen Clark said: “It is very clear that most New Zealanders do not want this sporting contact. Obviously it is of concern that our cricketers might be caught up in circumstances that could compromise them. I understand they are taking steps similar to those taken by the English cricketers two years ago to ensure that there is no association with Mr Mugabe and his associates.”
Zimbabwe's Judith Todd (Daughter of Sir Garfield Todd) thanks New Zealanders for taking a stand against the Robert Mugabe regime.
New Zealand's relationship with Zimbabwe's Mugabe regime has been inflammatory from almost the day Labour came into office. In Nigeria, at the 2003 Commonwealth Heads Of Government meeting in Abuja, Helen Clark and Phil Goff front-footed their determination to block Mugabe from taking part at the summit. And they were successful. Zimbabwe's suspension was extended - a move that was seen to be a slap-in-the-face for the African despot.
Recently, New Zealand's aggressive stance against Mugabe has intensified with Phil Goff on Saturday naming Mugabe along side Pol Pot and calling for Mugabe to be tried by the International Criminal Court.
It is before this backdrop that New Zealand Cricket's Black Caps have decided to tour - a decision that rightfully has the Prime Minister worried - and considering New Zealand has no direct diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe (with relationships at-best strained, at worst volatile) it is fair to suggest that the Black Caps ought to be very concerned indeed.
Today, Scoop asked Phil Goff what contingency plan exists to ensure diplomatic support be available to the cricketers and other New Zealanders should things go pear-shaped during the Zimbabwe tour.
New Zealand foreign minister, Phil Goff.
Scoop: Will New Zealand Cricket's black caps and others touring Zimbabwe in August be assured of diplomatic support should a dangerous situation develop inside Zimbabwe? What diplomatic representation is available to those who may choose to tour Zimbabwe?
Phil Goff: "New Zealanders visiting Zimbabwe for any reason would receive consular services if the need arose. Consular services in respect of Zimbabwe are supplied through the New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa."
Scoop: Is there is a plan in place for New Zealand to intercede to aid a New Zealander should Mugabe detain a player or a tourist for speaking against the political situation while in Zimbabwe, or should a player decide to wear a black armband in protest against the regime?
Phil Goff: "The High Commission in Pretoria would do whatever it can to assist anyone who is detained during the Black Caps tour, just as it would seek to help any New Zealander detained there at any time."
Scoop: Considering the stance that the New Zealand Government has taken over Zimbabwe, and Mugabe in particular, is there a heightened state of concern that the Mugabe regime might take a harder stance against NZ citizens than say those of the UK?
Phil Goff: "This is unlikely. The Zimbabwean government would likely seek to avoid an incident that would affect the image it would like to portray to the world of it being a well-ordered and peaceful society."
Scoop: What security can be assured for those touring Zimbabwe giving the nature of order in Zimbabwe at this time?
Phil Goff: "The provision of security for the tour is the responsibility of the Zimbabwe authorities. New Zealand Cricket makes its own assessment of security factors and is entitled to, and should, call off the tour in the event of its team's security being at risk."
He added: "It is the security of Zimbabwe's own people that is most at risk from the repressive actions of the Zimbabwe government. While people are tightly controlled by the state apparatus, an outbreak of violence reflecting the anger and resentment of people subject to repression could not be ruled out, though the level of coercive control may make it unlikely," Phil Goff said.
But John Minto, spokesperson for the GPJA (Global Peace and Justice Auckland) said Phil Goff's comments offer little comfort for New Zealand's cricketers who may become pawns in a political game mastered by Mugabe.
Global Peace and Justice Auckland spokesperson, John Minto, calls for a total boycott of sporting contact with Zimbabwe.
John Minto told Scoop tonight: "Goff's responses should be of little comfort to the New Zealand cricketers. The erratic, unpredictable and utterly repressive policies followed by the Mugabe regime mean it is difficult to predict Mugabe's reaction to a protest by New Zealand cricketers - such as black armbands - or to attempts by New Zealand officials to get co-operation from Zimbabwe officials in dealing with an arrest for what will be perceived as "anti-government" activity. Even in the case of an arrest for "anti-social" behaviour, as has occured with sports people on tour from time to time in the past, could quickly escalete to a nightmare for the players.
"The simple fact is that New Zealand officials will be regarded as officials of an enemy state - one where the Foreign Minister has called for Mugabe to be tried for crimes against humanity by the World Court.
"As for the much vaunted 'black armbands', as Judith Todd, visiting human rights activist from Zimbabwe says... 'We have been there, done that - instead the tour must not proceed'," John Minto said.
In recent weeks, bulldozers demolished structures in Harare's poor townships which the government said had been built without permission, it added that the campaign, called "Operation Restore Order", was intended to clean up cities and help end crime and illegal trading in foreign currency and scarce commodities. It has been extended to more affluent areas.
On Friday (July 15) Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe defended his government's two-month-old crackdown on illegal structures, saying it should be seen as reconstruction, not destruction. Reuters reported Mugabe's address on state television where he said the clean-up, which aid groups say has made an estimated 300,000 people homeless in poor townships, was aimed at regeneration.
"We are constructing brand new houses, mending those which require to be mended, where it is necessary to destroy some. But the thrust is a reconstruction one a positive thrust to rebuild things...that's how we should have done it," Mugabe said. "But it was seen by others as a callous exercise. They said we were destroying homes and not shacks. We were destroying shacks and attachments to houses that were built to exploit the homeless ones."
Mugabe said the government was moving swiftly to provide houses for those affected by the operation.
Here for the first time in New Zealand, Scoop broadcasts recent footage of homes being demolished by the Robert Mugabe government in Zimbabwe. This video footage includes interviews with victims and human rights spokespersons inside Zimbabwe. It is feared that Mugabe is setting the scene for genocide as he dehumanises the victims of his regime's destruction-machine. Mugabe's chief of police described the people displayed in this video as “filth” and “maggots” and his ministers claim that the country has too many people anyway… See... Zimbabwe Video Footage Shown For First Time In NZ
On Saturday, Phil Goff called for the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations' security council, to investigate atrocities conducted on Mugabe's orders against the people of Zimbabwe.
Speaking to those gathered at a protest march in Auckland, Phil Goff said: “For the first time since Pol Pot we have seen a mass of people, rendered homeless as a deliberate policy of government, sent out into the countryside where they lack shelter, where they lack food…
“We are approaching the (United Nations) security council to try and get Mugabe before the International Criminal Court. We don’t know whether we can do it, but by God that is where he belongs! It is what his fate should be for what he has done to his people."
“We have approached the South African Development Community. And many people here including John Minto and Mike Treen and others, marched in 1981 against the South African tour, and every Labour Member of Parliament opposed the South African tour. We did it because we were begged by the ANC (African National Congress) to stand up for the rights of the oppressed, to stand up for the majority in South Africa, and to stand up against the abuse of human rights. Now it is time for the ANC to deliver back. Why would it be wrong for their rights to be stolen from them by the regime of Apartheid, yet South Africa has been silent when it comes to condemning the same abuse by the Mugabe regime,” Phil Goff said.
SCOOP AUDIO: Phil Goff's position.
On Saturday John Minto led a protest march up Auckland's Queen Street. There he challenged the government to halt the proposed tour once and for all.
SCOOP AUDIO: John Minto responds.
New Zealand Cricket CEO Martin Snedden claimed on Sunday that New Zealand public opinion had swung in behind the Black Caps' tour of Zimbabwe - a view that appears to be out of step with polls taken on the issue.
A One News/Colmar Brunton poll published on June 30 found 77 percent of New Zealanders opposed the tour. Only 14 percent thought it should go ahead.
Green Party co-leader Rod Donald said yesterday: "I believe public opinion has strengthened against the tour since that poll was taken. In the last fortnight, Mugabe's reign of terror has continued and Zimbabwean human rights campaigners Henry Olonga and Judith Todd have brought their anti-tour pleas directly to the people of New Zealand."
Green Party co-leader, Rod Donald.
He was right: a Fairfax/ACNeilsen poll for The Dominion Post showed 53 per cent of voters would support a law that bans sports teams touring countries that violate human rights.
The Dominion Post reported: "The Government is under mounting pressure to step in and stop the tour, but is resisting calls to pass a law, saying that would infringe on people's personal freedom. Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff said yesterday that the poll results were a reaction to the 'appalling abuses' being reported out of Zimbabwe and did not surprise him."
The Green Party has stepped up its campaign against the tour and will bring Judith Todd to Wellington this week to meet with the public, as well as union, church and political leaders, including Foreign Minister Phil Goff. Ms Todd, who had a private meeting with Helen Clark on the weekend will speak at a public meeting in Wellington on Friday.
Pressure is mounting on Mugabe from all sides. South Africa is under increasing pressure itself to speak out against repression inside Zimbabwe.
A group of South African church leaders was due to be returning to Zimbabwe on Monday after having met South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki. And a United Nations report is due shortly on the government's destruction of homes. The UN has estimated the number rendered homeless at 250,000.
On Sunday night Dr Anna Tibaijuka, the director of the UN's housing organisation, will be flying to New York to brief the UN on her visit to Zimbabwe earlier this month. The BBC reports that Tibaijuka's report on the policies of the Mugabe government, which have left so many without homes in the middle of winter, is likely to be debated by the UN later this week.
South African media report Mugabe is seeking a multi-million dollar loan from Pretoria, to stave off expulsion from the International Monetary Fund. Zimbabwe owes the Fund over USD$300m. With almost all the country's foreign exchange now going to pay for food imports, after a disastrous harvest, there is nothing left over to repay its debts.
Perhaps, if money talks, South Africa's Mbeki will be able to broker restraint for cash deal.
But Mugabe remains defiant and said on Friday: "We thank all our (Southern African Development Community) SADC partners and there are 14 of us in SADC who support us on all fronts, especially South Africa which has stood with us for all this time."