Perfect timing


The timing was perfect. His career was waning. Young Tatenda Taibu and Douglas Hondo had taken the spotlight claiming regular places in the national team.

Top cricketing teams, England and Australia, were pressing the International Cricket Council to cancel the six matches that were to be played in Zimbabwe.

Instead of telling the truth that they did not want to play in Zimbabwe because of the breakdown of the rule of law, lack of democracy and suppression of the opposition, they claimed they were afraid of their own security.

When the ICC stood its ground, Henry Olonga must have realised this was his golden opportunity to kickstart his career. Why not tell the world what the British had been afraid to say.

And who could be a better partner than top-ranking, internationally acclaimed cricketer Andy Flower?

They decided to wear black armbands because they were “mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe.” They could not “in good conscience take to the field and ignore the fact that millions of our compatriots are starving, unemployed and oppressed”.

Their statement was true. Democracy is dead in Zimbabwe. Millions of Zimbabweans need food. Poverty and Aids are on the increase.

But coming from Olonga, this sounded hypocritical, unless one accepts that people are allowed to become turncoats just like Jonathan Moyo turned around from one of president Robert Mugabe’s critics to his staunchest supporter.

Olonga, an aspiring musician, produced what most people thought had become Zimbabwe’s national anthem, a song – Our Zimbabwe- that, like the national anthem was sung in all three national languages and was played more often than the national anthem on the country’s television and radio stations.

What then went wrong for Olonga to suddenly turnaround and realise the country was on flames?

Perhaps it was the lure of an international career. Right now, playing the democracy card and claiming your life is in danger is a sure passport out of the “hell” in Zimbabwe.

Olonga now says he wants to seek asylum in England. And it looks his comfort has already been assured.

Sussex businessman Lawrence Mallison has stated that he is prepared to spend about 30 000 pounds, a whopping $60 million, sponsoring Olonga as an overseas cricketer for Essex.

But it looks Olonga wants to leave cricket altogether. He wants to switch to classical music. Whatever he chooses, he should have no problems finding a new home.

But one wonders whether that was not what he was after, in the first place. If indeed, he wanted to help his fellow countrymen, perhaps he could donate a few millions he has made from cricket.

With pounds beckoning perhaps we could soon have the Olonga Survival Trust.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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