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Exiled cricketer: I get no pleasure from death of ‘vicious tyrant’ Mugabe

Henry Olonga faced death threats after a pro-democracy protest in Harare at the 2003 World Cup.

Henry Olonga chats with captain Andy Flower at Lord’s in 2000.
Henry Olonga chats with captain Andy Flower at Lord’s in 2000.

By Trevor Marshallsea, PA

Former Zimbabwe fast bowler Henry Olonga said Robert Mugabe would be remembered as a vicious tyrant and a dictator.

Olonga was exiled from his home country and faced death threats after standing up to Zimbabwe’s former president Mugabe through a pro-democracy protest in Harare at the 2003 World Cup.

Olonga, who was the first black man to play Test cricket for the country, famously staged his brave protest along with the team’s white captain Andy Flower.

The pair wore black armbands through the first game in Zimbabwe as it co-hosted the World Cup with South Africa, and released a statement mourning “the death of democracy” in their country.

The protest effectively ended both men’s international careers.

“People have been saying perhaps I’ll have a drink as a toast to the man’s death. But I get no pleasure from his death,” Olonga, who now lives in Adelaide, told the PA news agency.

“In fact, it makes me incredibly sad, because for all he could have represented, he failed to scale the heights of someone like Nelson Mandela, because he became a megalomaniac, a power-hungry tyrant, a dictator and a man who subjugated his own people while purporting to be representing them.”

Olonga, 43, said Mugabe “cronies” were the beneficiaries of a lot of the policies the former president put in place, such as the “land grab” of taking farms back from white farmers.

“It’s all very sad, but he was also… critical in helping Zimbabwe attain its independence and freedom,” Olonga said.

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Anti-Mugabe protesters demonstrate outside the Riverside Ground in Chester le Street in 2003 (PA)

“He also ensured that black people who didn’t have it in the 1960s and 1970s could have the right to vote, although of course even the very first elections the independent Zimbabwe had were marred with alleged incidents of voter intimidation and violence.

“So who knows whether Mugabe was the liberator that we aggrandise him to be?

“I’ll give credit where it’s due. He was one of the liberation war heroes and that will never be taken away from him. But unfortunately the legacy of this man is that he’ll be remembered as a vicious tyrant and dictator.”

PA

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