Murder of Aussie tourist sparks fresh debate on Zim

Published: Monday, January 6, 2003, 23:16 [IST]
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Harare: Zimbabwe's suitability as a venue for next month's cricket World Cup was in the spotlight again after a 27-year-old Australian tourist was stabbed to death at the country's prime tourist destination, the Victoria Falls. The Australian, whose name has yet to be released, had his death confirmed by Zimbabwe authorities on Sunday. He was attacked as he came out of the rain forest at the waterfall in northwestern Zimbabwe on Saturday, the police chief in Victoria Falls, Alexio Paradzai, told state radio.

He was stabbed with a sharp object several times and died on the spot. No arrests have been made, the radio said. Both Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his British counterpart Tony Blair have called on their respective teams to pull out of their matches in Zimbabwe in protest at the policies of its President Robert Mugabe. However, the duo have stressed that they cannot force their sides to withdraw from games in Zimbabwe. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has always maintained that the six World Cup matches due to take place in Zimbabwe would go ahead as long as the safety and security of the players could be assured. And cricket's world governing body has repeatedly said that it was not for it to make a political judgement on the Mugabe regime.

It's assessment on Zimbabwe's safety and security status was based on a report compiled following a November visit by an ICC inspection team. However, the ICC subsequently admitted that it might change its plans if the situation deteriorated before the tournament gets underway on February 8. Representatives from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are due to meet British government ministers on Thursday to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe. The bulk of the 54 World Cup matches are taking place in South Africa with two also scheduled for Kenya. In Canberra, a spokeswoman from the Australian Foreign Ministry said the dead man, a 27-year-old from the southern city of Adelaide, was apparently the victim of a robbery attempt.

"It appears the man was stabbed to death during a robbery attempt that went tragically wrong," she said. An official from the Australian High Commission in Harare was en route to Victoria Falls to meet with local authorities investigating the death, she said. The attack at the spectacular waterfall, one of the world's seven natural wonders, is likely to deal a further blow to Zimbabwe's tourism industry, which has seen a sharp fall in the number of people visiting the country since a controversial land reform programme was implemented three years ago. The latest murder comes just a few weeks after a US tourist was shot and killed at a police roadblock near the eastern border city of Mutare.

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