Sponsor unhappy over Zimbabwe crisis

By Helen Tunnah

Major Black Caps sponsor the National Bank is "unhappy" about the crisis in Zimbabwe but has not put a financial squeeze on New Zealand Cricket, saying a tour decision will be left to the cricketers.

The bank, which has previously refused to comment, said yesterday that it in no way condoned the regime of President Robert Mugabe.

It has ties to NZ Cricket through Sir John Anderson, who is both ANZ National Bank chief executive and cricket's national chairman, and said it was liaising with the sport's officials daily about the tour.

"While we're unhappy about the situation in Zimbabwe and the Government is in no way condoned by the National Bank, we do continue to have faith in New Zealand Cricket to make appropriate decisions on this matter," a bank statement said.

A spokeswoman later described the situation as deplorable for all parties.

Sir John is New Zealand's representative on the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Its rules are being cited as the barrier to the Black Caps calling off the August-September tests and one-day tri-series, which also includes India.

NZ Cricket chief executive Martin Snedden has said New Zealand is contractually bound to honour the ICC's playing schedule.

If it pulls out of a tour for other than security reasons, NZ Cricket faces suspension from the sport and a minimum $2.8 million fine.

The Government has picked up on a Green Party call for an international cricketing boycott of Zimbabwe as a possible way for the Black Caps to quit the tour without being sanctioned.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff yesterday drafted a letter to the ICC asking it to introduce a boycott of Zimbabwe because of the human rights abuses of the Mugabe regime.

He has sent copies to the British and Australian Governments, asking for a joint approach, and has also indicated that the Zimbabwe cricketers will be banned from touring here in December.

Mr Goff told the Herald last night that what remained unclear was how NZ Cricket felt about a tour if penalties were removed.

Mr Snedden has not commented on a ban on Zimbabwe's cricketers. He is in London with Sir John for the ICC's annual meeting, which was to be held overnight.

The National Party last night supported a joint approach to the ICC, but asked Labour to consult it, saying a cross-party position would be more effective.

Although the British Government initially spoke out against an England tour of Zimbabwe last year, it was later accused of being silenced by an African threat to withdraw support for London's bid to host the Olympic Games in 2012.

Zimbabwe Cricket yesterday continued to insist the tour should go ahead.

Chairman Peter Chingoka told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme all cricketing countries had obligations to ensure tours went ahead. He said the ICC had not stepped in to stop other tours.

Mr Chingoka refused to answer questions about the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and the bulldozing of homes which has left more than 200,000 homeless.

He said he was a cricket administrator, not an expert on such things.

New Zealand Cricket Players Association spokesman Heath Mills said the players were used to going to countries with human rights "issues".

They did not accept them but were bound by their contracts. 

WHERE THE PARTIES STAND

Labour

Against the tour. But says in a democracy, it cannot and should not stop New Zealanders travelling abroad. Would stop the Zimbabwe team's return tour in December.

National

No party position yet on the Black Caps' tour - but leader Don Brash personally opposes it. Open to compensating NZ Cricket if Zimbabwe stopped from coming here.

New Zealand First

No comment.

Green Party

Against. Co-leader Rod Donald, the strongest opponent, says the Government could stop the tour with sporting sanctions.

Act Party

Would not stop the tour. Rodney Hide says Act will not tell cricketers who they should play against.

United Future

Against. Supports the view that New Zealanders cannot be stopped from travelling overseas and backs denying entry here to Zimbabwe's cricketers.

Progressive Party

Against. Agrees cricketers cannot be denied their right to travel but wants the Black Caps to call off the tour.

Maori Party

Against. NZ Cricket should not have to bear the financial costs. Says a country, Zimbabwe, should look after its people.

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