Bacher, Speed didn't meet Zim Oppn during visit

Published: Monday, January 27, 2003, 22:30 [IST]
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Johannesburg: Cricket World Cup organiser Ali Bacher on Monday said he did not speak to or meet Opposition groups during a visit to Zimbabwe last week, despite threats of demonstrations in that country. Asked on SABC public radio whether Opposition groups to President Robert Mugabe's government, including the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had contacted him, Bacher said he had not. "I didn't receive any phone calls or any enquiries from any Opposition groups in Zimbabwe to come to have a chat to us," he said.

Bacher and International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed visited Zimbabwe last week to check on the country's security arrangements. Bacher said he and Speed were in the country for only 18 hours, before departing for South Africa and Britain. "We were only there for about 18 hours and we didn't have time (to meet the Opposition). Also, I wouldn't know who to contact or what phone number to use," he said.

Earlier this month a Zimbabwean coalition of Opposition and political groups vowed to hold widespread anti-government demonstrations before and after games. "We will hold demonstrations before and after cricket matches," said Lovemore Madhuku who heads the National Constitutional Assembly. Madhuku said the protest marches were not aimed at cricket, "but the focus is to expose to the international community the excesses of the Zimbabwean regime".

Bacher on Monday reiterated assurances from Zimbabwe's police chiefs that demonstrations against the Harare government would be permitted as long as "the right channels were followed and they were peaceful". Asked what the World Cup organisers could do if these assurances were not met Bacher said, "If there is an application for a peaceful demonstration in Zimbabwe and they don't keep their word, we'll go public on that. We can't go beyond that," he said. The ICC on Friday announced that the six World Cup matches scheduled to take place in Zimbabwe would go ahead.

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