'WC politicised, it's a carefully orchestrated campaign'

Published: Saturday, February 8, 2003, 5:24 [IST]
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Johannesburg: South African President Thabo Mbeki hinted on Friday that England and New Zealand's refusal to play cricket in Kenya and Zimbabwe were part of a carefully orchestrated campaign against an African-hosted World Cup. "To the best of our knowledge, these governments have provided no information to the International Cricket Council (ICC) indicating that the security of the players is threatened," Mbeki wrote in the 'African National Congress' internal newsletter.

He said recent "travel alerts" issued by the British and Australian governments to warn their citizens against terrorist threats in South Africa, could have formed part of a drive to discredit the region ahead of the World Cup. "Given what has now happened with regard to Zimbabwe and Kenya, it may very well be that the false 'travel alerts' about South Africa were intended to convey a global message of general African insecurity, to prepare for the campaign against Zimbabwe and Kenya, and therefore the African-hosted Cricket World Cup," he said.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will discover later on Friday whether or not its final appeal to have its February 13 World Cup match against Zimbabwe in Harare switched to South Africa has been successful. "Interestingly, and of importance, other governments whose citizens are scheduled to play in Zimbabwe and Kenya have not questioned the determinations of the ICC and the experts who have done detailed groundwork in these countries," Mbeki said.

He said the decision to host matches in Zimbabwe and Kenya was aimed at developing cricket on the continent. "A few years ago, the ICC and our United Cricket Board decided that they should work together to encourage the development of cricket in other African countries. "It was most unfortunate that this great tournament should have been politicised."

AFP Copyright AFP 2001

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