Two members of Zimbabwe’s World Cup Cricket team, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, are protesting Mugabe’s despotic rule by wearing black arm bands during their World Cup game against Namibia. Andy Flower is a former captain of the team and Henry Olonga is their first black player. According to BBC,
Zimbabwe cricketers Henry Olonga and Andy Flower knew that they were taking a great risk by making a public protest against the government of Robert Mugabe.
Olonga has already been suspended by his club, Takashinga for wearing a black armband during the Namibia match but that is the least of their worries.
As the statement they released just before taking to the field said:
“People have been murdered, raped, beaten and had their homes destroyed because of their beliefs and… many of those responsible have not been prosecuted.”
While such high-profile people are unlikely to be physically attacked in the middle of the Cricket World Cup, Mr Mugabe and his supporters have long memories.
Certainly, their cricketing careers – in Zimbabwe at least – are in jeopardy.
The Zimbabwe Cricket Union, whose patron is cricket fan Robert Mugabe, is already considering what action to take against them for breaching its “non-political” stance.
[…]And the police have said no political slogans, songs, placards, dress or other “artefact associated with political parties” would be allowed at cricket venues.
But despite this, the cricketers’ action has brought attention back to “the death of democracy” in Zimbabwe.
And the statement is far more powerful, coming from the first black player in the national team, Henry Olonga.
Both players received loud cheers every time they bowled or batted, further adding to Mr Mugabe’s embarrassment.
The government mouthpiece, The Herald newspaper, noted that the two were “able to express themselves without any harassment or intimidation”.
But the police would have handed out instant justice to anyone making similar statements from the crowd.
Olonga says he is ready to pay the price of his action and accepted that he and Flower may now be in physical danger.
“We’ll have to deal with whatever repercussions come along our way as best we can but we believe in the greater good,” he told the BBC.
Here is their statement:
It is a great honour for us to take the field today to play for Zimbabwe in the World Cup.
We feel privileged and proud to have been able to represent our country.
We are, however, deeply distressed about what is taking place in Zimbabwe in the midst of the World Cup and do not feel that we can take the field without indicating our feelings in a dignified manner and in keeping with the spirit of cricket.
We cannot in good conscience take to the field and ignore the fact that millions of our compatriots are starving, unemployed and oppressed.
We are aware that hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans may even die in the coming months through a combination of starvation, poverty and Aids.
We are aware that many people have been unjustly imprisoned and tortured simply for expressing their opinions about what is happening in the country.
We have heard a torrent of racist hate speech directed at minority groups.
We are aware that thousands of Zimbabweans are routinely denied their right to freedom of expression.
We are aware that people have been murdered, raped, beaten and had their homes destroyed because of their beliefs and that many of those responsible have not been prosecuted.
We are also aware that many patriotic Zimbabweans oppose us even playing in the World Cup because of what is happening.
It is impossible to ignore what is happening in Zimbabwe. Although we are just professional cricketers, we do have a conscience and feelings.
We believe that if we remain silent that will be taken as a sign that either we do not care or we condone what is happening in Zimbabwe.
We believe that it is important to stand up for what is right.
We have struggled to think of an action that would be appropriate and that would not demean the game we love so much.
We have decided that we should act alone without other members of the team being involved because our decision is deeply personal and we did not want to use our senior status to unfairly influence more junior members of the squad.
We would like to stress that we greatly respect the ICC and are grateful for all the hard work it has done in bringing the World Cup to Zimbabwe.
In all the circumstances, we have decided that we will each wear a black armband for the duration of the World Cup.
In doing so we are mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe.
In doing so we are making a silent plea to those responsible to stop the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe.
In doing so we pray that our small action may help to restore sanity and dignity to our nation.
It is great to hear such words from two very good cricketers. They have risked a lot by this protest and the international community and ICC (International Cricket Conference, cricket’s governing body) should make sure they are not punished.
Courtesy of commenter Amy Phillips.