Govt acts against Zimbabwe

The government has announced economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and a ban against the country’s cricketers, matching its rhetoric with actions as pressure on Robert Mugabe continues to build.

Gordon Brown announced the moves against Zimbabwe in prime minister’s questions this lunchtime, with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) following suit with its own suspension of relations with the Zimbabwe Cricket Board.

The prime minister said intensified sanctions against the government would be met with financial and travel sanctions against “members of the Mugabe regime” – in other words, the “criminal kabal” which Mr Brown blames for many of the problems in the African country.

An ECB statement confirmed the news that a letter had been received by the ECB from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport instructing the cricketing governing body to cancel next year’s tour.

The ECB said they “have been in constructive and extensive dialogue with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for some time” and welcomed the decision.

“[The ECB] shares the government’s concerns about the deteriorating situation and lack of human rights in Zimbabwe,” the statement added.

Culture secretary Andy Burnham’s letter was delivered to ECB headquarters at Lord’s this morning notifying it of the decision, while a written ministerial statement to the Commons has informed MPs of the move.

In the letter, Mr Burnham wrote: “The government has concluded that it would not be right to allow the proposed tour by the Zimbabwe cricket team in 2009 to take place.

“The deteriorating situation around the failed and illegitimate elections in Zimbabwe, and the imminence of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) annual conference in Dubai, means that the point of decision on this matter has now been reached.”

The moves follow growing condemnation of the domestic political situation in Zimbabwe. Opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has been forced to pull out of a runoff election because of violence aimed at his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters.

Yesterday the ICC’s president-elect David Morgan revealed the sport’s world governing body is to consider banning Zimbabwe from the World Twenty20 tournament due in June 2009 next week.

Now it appears Zimbabwe’s cricketers will be prevented from participating because of action by the UK government, which has in the past stopped short of mixing politics with sport when it comes to Mr Mugabe’s regime.