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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > PTI > Report

Olonga evades cops, goes into exile

March 16, 2003 15:35 IST

Zimbabwe pace bowler Henry Olonga's international career came to an end on Saturday night with a secret journey to a safe house in South Africa.

He will hide until he is able to start a new life in a different country -- maybe in Kenya where he was born and where he has his family, or England, where he can take advantage of asylum.

Olonga's last few hours as an international cricketer were spent nervously, lest there was a tap on his shoulder that could have threatened his life.

Seven plainclothes officers from Zimbabwe, believed to be from the Central Intelligence Organisation, arrived in East London on Friday and were entertained by World Cup organisers during the Zimbabwe-Sri Lanka tie on Saturday.

Their real purpose for being in the sleepy, coastal town was more sinister than watching their country's team bow out of the World Cup, a report in The Sunday Telegraph said.

Olonga had received numerous threats during the last month, but this one was different. He had been told the officers intended to 'escort him home' where a likely charge of treason awaited.

The punishment for treason in Zimbabwe is death.

The drama began in the mid-afternoon when officers from the World Cup-appointed Close Protection Unit came to the players' hotel and packed all of Olonga's personal possession in case he was intercepted after the match.

Olonga appeared on the field to perform 12th man duties early in the afternoon to create the impression that everything was normal.

But things were far from normal despite Olonga's impossibly courageous attempts to stay calm.

"He was pretty shaken, but he seemed to be coping as well as anyone can in a situation like that," said a teammate after the match.

Olonga, along with Andy Flower, wore black armbands in their opening match of the tournament and issued a joint statement mourning the death of democracy in Zimbabwe, a gesture that earned worldwide praise and also the wrath of the Robert Mugabe regime.

Flower also quit international cricket on Saturday.

Olonga issued the following statement explaining his decision to bow out.

"It is with great sadness that I am officially announcing my retirement from international cricket. My continued involvement with the Zimbabwean team has become untenable for the following reasons:

"The stand I took earlier in the World Cup has undoubtedly had repercussions that have affected both my career and my personal life. I have received threatening emails, which, I believe, make it dangerous for me to return to Zimbabwe.

"I was never under the illusion that my stand would have no consequences, but I believe that one should have the courage of one's convictions in life and do all one can to uphold them.

"I believe that if I were to continue to play for Zimbabwe in the midst of the prevailing crisis, I would only be neglecting the voice of my conscience.

"I would be condoning the grotesque human rights violations that have been perpetrated against my fellow countrymen.

"To my fellow Zimbabweans: The Zimbabwe we dream of must merely remain in our hearts. We must be strong, stand united and strive to give our children the brighter day in which they belong."

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Number of User Comments: 91

Sub: Protest must be supported

Zimbabwe must be banned frm taking part in any eventsEven ICC shouldn't have allowed any matches in Zimbabwe. I guess what ICC and other countries ...

Posted by Shveta

Sub: Olongo just a good cricketer

It is very startling to see that Nelson mandela is being posed as a person who is against Mugabe. It is for the same cause ...

Posted by rajesh

Sub: Kudos to Olonga !

It is said that courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery over it. Henry Olonga's stance while being aware of the repurcussions ...

Posted by A well wisher

Sub: Olonga The Great

It's indeed shocking to hear Olonga quit because of personnel problems.He has really defined the meaning Courage.But it's really sad that some people don't understand ...

Posted by deepak pillai

Sub: Henry the HERO

You showed the world, what it is to stand up for one's right. It is sad to hear that a persons career has come to ...

Posted by EC


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