Parliament calls on Black Caps to abandon Zimbabwe tour

Parliament has overwhelmingly called on New Zealand Cricket to abandon the tour of Zimbabwe.

The vote on a resolution was 110-10, with only ACT and the Maori Party voting against.

Prime Minister Helen Clark introduced the resolution, which expresses grave concern at human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, calls on New Zealand Cricket (NZC) to abandon the tour, and urges the International Cricket Council to exclude Zimbabwe from international tours.

The team left New Zealand yesterday, and is spending time in another southern African country, Namibia, before going to Zimbabwe where the first match starts on August 4.

The Government has refused to legislate to ban the tour, the only way NZC could avoid heavy fines imposed by the ICC, and short of that the resolution is the strongest measure it can take.

Helen Clark told Parliament the abhorrent "Operation Clear Out Rubbish" in Zimbabwe was estimated to have made more than 700,000 people homeless or jobless.

"We have condemned the mismanagement of a corrupt and self-serving regime which has destroyed the country's economy and left 80 per cent of the people unemployed," she said.

"Most New Zealanders agree that playing cricket in Zimbabwe at this time of profound crisis is deeply inappropriate."

The Prime Minister said NZC was in a difficult position. It was obliged to carry out the tour or face crippling financial penalties, some of which would be payable to Zimbabwe.

"Through this motion, the New Zealand Parliament urges New Zealand Cricket and the International Cricket Council, to heed the call of public opinion in New Zealand and around the world, and to abandon the Black Caps tour of Zimbabwe," she said.

National's deputy leader, Gerry Brownlee, said his party supported the resolution.

"We're a party that values freedom and choice for New Zealanders. This calls on New Zealand Cricket to exercise their choice in support of the many citizens of Zimbabwe who have no choice and, it would seem, very little freedom," he said.

ACT leader Rodney Hide said his party also condemned Mugabe's regime but would not support the resolution.

"We go back to a fundamental right that every New Zealander should have, and that is the right to be free to travel wherever they choose, and be free to play sport with whom they choose," he said.

Green Party co-leader Rod Donald, who has led the campaign to stop the tour, said: "Our sporting heroes are about to become pawns in Mugabe's power game. Unless the tour is called off, this will be seen as nothing more than waving a wet bus ticket at Mugabe."

After the vote was taken, Mr Donald tried to introduce a bill to ban the tour but there were objections and leave was not given.

- NZPA

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