Zimbabwe sports minister urges New Zealand to tour

david_coltart.jpgSports Minister, David Coltart,
Harare - Zimbabwe's new sports minister, David Coltart, said Thursday the New Zealand cricket team has an obligation to tour the troubled African country in July.

Movement for Democratic Change member Coltart, a white elected senator
from Bulawayo, said he would vigorously lobby the New Zealand
government to allow the team to tour. "My call to the New Zealanders is
clear and unequivocal," Coltart told The Associated Press. "People have
to give this coalition government a chance, and that applies to all
levels, cricket included. I would like to see the New Zealand team
touring Zimbabwe. If it need be I will go to New Zealand to persuade
them to come." New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said earlier this
week he was prepared to order the players not to tour Zimbabwe on
safety and health grounds and had previously said the team should
boycott the tour on moral grounds. "I’d be deeply sceptical about
whether they would be going," Key said. "We don’t support that regime.
We don’t support what’s happening in that country, and we don’t want to
give a signal that we do." But Coltart, who became sports minister as
part of the new coalition government which has MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai as prime minister, said the tour was in the best interests
of the people of Zimbabwe and its cricketers and could help promote
positive change in the country.

"I am not turning a blind eye to the inadequacies in our cricket and
our country," Coltart said. "My call must not be interpreted that way.
My call is in the interest of the public, the players and cricket in
Zimbabwe. My call is in terms of sportsmanship." However, Coltart
conceded that political repression in the country made it difficult for
touring teams to come. "It also applies to the broader context of
political sanctions. We need to build measures. For as long as people
are in detention it’s hard to lift sanctions," he said. "The same
applies to cricket. For as long as there are concerns in the game here
then my words will fall on deaf ears. If the whole political situation
has not changed it will be hard for them to come." He said he was
confident that the new unity government would lead to improvements in
the political situation. "We will look at the wider political issues
seriously. My wish is that by the time they (New Zealand) are scheduled
to come in July these issues would have been addressed," Coltart said.
After nearly 30 years of one party rule by President Robert Mugabe’s
Zanu PF party, Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed, with a widening
cholera epidemic and spiralling prices. Last year, official inflation
based on the tumbling local Zimbabwe dollar was given at 231 million
percent but the state statistics office is no longer able to calculate
the inflation rate because of acute shortages of gasoline, food and
most goods

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