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Britain gives work permit to Olonga
April 06, 2003 20:03 IST
British immigration authorities have granted a work permit to Henry Olonga, who had protested against President Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe during the World Cup.
According to reports in London on Sunday, the 26-year-old pace bowler was packing his belongings at a safe house in South Africa to prepare for his journey to England.
A report in The Mail said Olonga, who quit international cricket at the end of Zimbabwe's World Cup campaign, said: "I am so very pleased. I have a lot of people to thank for what they have done for me.
"So many people have played a role in this affair and I owe them all a deep debt of gratitude. Hopefully, when I get to England, I can repay their friendship. This is a dream come true."
Warning that six million Zimbabweans could be facing starvation in a year's time, he said, "I think things are going to change and change quickly.
"When things come right, I'll go back."
Olonga and Andy Flower wore black armbands to protest against 'death of democracy in Zimbabwe'.
The two are likely to be reunited at Essex's first championship match against Middlesex on April 18, when Flower begins his second year of overseas duty at Chelmsford.
Businessman and cricketing entrepreneur David Folb, who has offered Olonga a contract to play for his Kent-based side, Lashings, was cleaning the house by the River Medway where the Zimbabwean will live.
Folb said: "We want to make Henry feel as much at home as possible. We have mounted a lot of pressure on officialdom to give him safe haven in England.
"It's a tribute to a democracy like ours that we can help people like Henry when they are forced to flee their homelands.
"Cricket will always be grateful for the World Cup statement made by Olonga and Flower. Their stand against Mugabe's regime will be enshrined on the tournament's history."