Zimbabwe peace process talks deadlocked

Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Harare:Peace talks between Zimbabwe's embattled cricket rulers and their rebel players, who claim they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, failed to resolve the crisis.

But players representative Clive Field believes that there is the will on both sides to hammer out a solution to the chaos, which has seen Zimbabwe suspended from Test matches for the second time in two years.

"We are pursuing dialogue and we have no option but to try to make progress," Field told the www.cricinfo.com.

"To do anything else would signal the end. We respect the commitment given by the committee and will try to match it. But we still have many issues to be resolved."

The talks were between the players and Zimbabwe Cricket's Technical and Player Welfare Sub-Committee but there was no serious headway made on the thorny issue of unpaid match fees.

It is understood that the players want to receive their money in US dollars while Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) insist the deficit is made up in local currency.

On Monday, all 35 of Zimbabwe's professional cricketers told ZC: "Pay what you owe or we will not negotiate any new contracts."

Their ultimatum was conveyed to interim chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, Peter Chingoka.

The players are claiming, in total, close to 250,000 US dollars in unpaid Test match and One-day international fees, according to opening batsman Dion Ebrahim, plus more than 500,000 dollars in back pay and allowances.

The 12 seniors and some of the 23 junior players have not been paid match fees since New Zealand toured here in August and India in September.

They claim they also haven't received their full pay since October.

The dispute over salaries relates mainly to a volatile exchange rate in Zimbabwe of the local dollar against the US currency.

Five months ago it was 25,000 Zimbabwe dollars to the US dollar; now it is about 85,000 Zimbabwe dollars - more than treble - which is the figure they are demanding before they will resume playing.

Most of the 35 are already overseas with various clubs, counties and states of South Africa, England and Australia.

Others have said they intend giving up cricket altogether. Both recent captains Heath Streak and Tatenda Taibu have resigned in recent months.

Field was approached by Zimbabwe Cricket through a local businessman last week with suggestions on how negotiations might proceed.

It appeared then that progress might be made.

"But these have been rejected" said Field on Monday.

"The players all want to be paid fully with what they are owed before they will agree to any talks whatsoever."

A leading lawyer in Harare, Beatrice Mtetwa, has been briefed with a view to possible legal action being taken.

A Zimbabwe Cricket official told AFP: "The figures being claimed that you have calculated are not far from the mark."

The government's Sports and Recreation Commission, which took over Zimbabwe Cricket on January 3 with the appointment for six months of an interim organising committee set a deadline "for all players to sign engagement contracts by January 31."

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