Sydney: The weekend murder of an Australian tourist in Zimbabwe underscores the need for a boycott of World Cup cricket matches planned in the strife-torn nation next month, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday.
The 27-year-old South Australia man was stabbed to death on Saturday in an apparent robbery attempt while visiting Victoria Falls in North Western Zimbabwe, the foreign ministry said. The murder came as the Australian government pursued efforts to have Zimbabwe withdrawn as co-host of the cricket World Cup due to security concerns and political strife under President Robert Mugabe's government.
"This death is certainly a reminder of the wider concerns that we have about security in Zimbabwe and the deteriorating political and economic environment," a spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. He said Australia was continuing discussions with other World Cup cricketing nations in hopes of organising a group boycott of Zimbabwe venues during the tournament, due to open in Cape Town on February 8.
"We've conveyed our views to those nations and they're under consideration," he said. Prime Minister John Howard has openly opposed the Australian team playing matches in Zimbabwe, where political violence has been rife since Mugabe began forcibly evicting white farmers as part of a "land reform" campaign. Howard has led international calls for sanctions against Mugabe since his re- election last year in a vote widely viewed as rigged. But Howard has said it would be unfair to the cricketers and their fans to unilaterally withdraw the Australia team.
"It's got to be one-in, all-in or one-out, all-out", Howard said over the weekend. Downer has lobbied his counterparts in favour of a group boycott and has the support of Britain and New Zealand. Howard this week said he would consider helping to cover the cost of boycotting the matches. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has maintained the six World Cup matches due to take place in Zimbabwe would proceed as long as the safety and security of the players could be assured.
And cricket's world governing body has repeatedly said it was not for it to make a political judgment on the Mugabe regime. Representatives from the England and Wales Cricket Board are due to meet British government ministers on Thursday to discuss the situation.