England appeal rejection is poetic justice for Zimbabwe

Published: Sunday, February 9, 2003, 1:38 [IST]
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Harare: Zimbabwean officials claimed on Saturday that the failure of England's final appeal to have its controversial World Cup match switched from Harare was a victory for common sense. "We are glad that sense has prevailed, logic has prevailed, truth has prevailed," senior assistant police commissioner Albert Mandizha told a news conference. Independent commissioner Justice Albie Sachs decided on Friday to reject England's appeal to relocate its February 13 match on safety grounds to South Africa. That prompted the England team, which is deeply unhappy about having to play the match, to discuss whether or not to play the game or announce a boycott costing them four docked points as well as a huge fine. It is due to make an announcement on their next move on Sunday.

"We have been undergoing a lot of scrutiny. We have passed and we didn't have to defend ourselves," said Mandizha. "We have passed the litmus test - we have passed more than three appeals." On Friday Sachs warned Zimbabwe that despite his ruling the country now carried the "enormous responsibility" of ensuring the safety of everyone at Thursday's match - should it go ahead. "Serious political and economic issues have arisen in Zimbabwe, to which it would be wrong to turn a blind eye," Sachs insisted.

"An enormous responsibility rests upon the shoulders of all concerned in Zimbabwe to ensure that the scheduled game is played in safety and in good spirit. "Not only must the players be protected, but also the spectators." Mandizha promised that security agents would "ensure that everybody enjoys their human rights". He said political sloganeering on the grounds would be prohibited as will the exhibiting of political regalia. "We are here to protect everybody. Anybody who starts sloganeering will be interfering with people's rights," he said.

Mandizha, however, said wearing of black armbands as proposed by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was allowed. The MDC has asked people to wear black armbands during the matches as a sign of protest at the goverment's alleged rights abuses. "It's not illegal to put on black bands, it is even part of our culture. In our culture, if somebody dies, you shave your hair and wear something black," he said. "He boasted that Sachs' decision "showed confidence by the world in the capacity of the police to manage security and safety challenges. It also confirms that Zimbabwe is a safe destination and suitable for the games."

AFP Copyright AFP 2001

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