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Daily Telegraph

I SUFFERED at the hands of the Mugabe regime seven months ago when I travelled to the country to report on Sri Lanka’s tour. Having been in Bulawayo for barely 24 hours, and without writing a word on the cricket, I was deported.

I had flown in from Johannesburg with a television crew who included commentator Ian Healy, the former Australia wicketkeeper, and perhaps his presence confused the immigration officer. I told him I was a journalist and had come to cover the tour — fully expecting to be turned away — but he just took my $55 fee and granted me a six-month business visa without question.

At the hotel, every time I mentioned President Mugabe people became nervous. A cricket official would only talk to me in my room with the curtains drawn.

At that stage I thought my main problem was going to be obtaining a ticket for the match, because the Zimbabwe Cricket Union were not responding to my requests. But, over at the Ministry of Information and Publicity alarm bells were ringing once the paperwork landed to inform them that a journalist — and especially one from The Daily Telegraph — had been let into the country.

That evening I had a visit from the chief immigration officer in Bulawayo. He confiscated my passport and told me his orders were to deport me. In theory, he should have put me in jail for the night but, being a kindly man — and puzzled by having to throw out a cricket journalist — he let me stay in the hotel for the night.

At his office the next morning he cancelled my visa and, escorted by an immigration officer, I was taken back to the airport. By coincidence, my escort was the same immigration officer who had overstepped the mark by letting me into Zimbabwe. He was another pleasant man whose dearest wish was to emigrate to England.

The people for whom I have no sympathy are the officials of the ZCU. They did nothing to intervene, behaving as if they were the lackeys of the Mugabe regime. They have proved themselves to be so this week.

© Mihir Bose

      

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