Johannesburg: Zimbabwe will spy on British and Australian cricketers playing in World Cup matches because President Robert Mugabe believes British agents are planning to assassinate him, a South African newspaper reported on Sunday. Mugabe wanted to ban the Australian and English cricketers because he feared British MI6 agents, working in cahoots with the Zimbabwean opposition, would use the occasion to kill him, the 'Sunday Independent' reported.
It said the cabinet persuaded Mugabe last week that hosting the matches in February and March would be a diplomatic coup for Zimbabwe after pressure from the British and Australian governments for a boycott of the matches in the southern African nation. The newspaper, citing unidentified authoritative Zimbabwean government sources, said the cabinet agreed that the Zimbabwean spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), would assign at least three agents to each British and Australian cricketer or official. The CIO will also bug the visitors' accommodation and telephone lines, and closely monitor their movements, it said.
"The fact is that Mugabe would rather not have these people here ... he thinks after humiliating (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair at the Earth Summit (in Johannesburg last year, when Mugabe blamed Blair for Zimbabwe's problems) and after the failure of the west to remove him from power, the focus is now on killing him," an official, who declined to be named, told the newspaper. "He thinks British intelligence are working full-time on that."