Team Mugabe wins rigged football match
Tourists who went to see the Dutch parliament around noon yesterday, or civil servants going out for lunch, witnessed a strange football soccer contest on the main square before the parliament building. A group of students from Zimbabwe, in yellow shirts, were competing against a member of the Dutch parliament, in an orange shirt.
Tourists coming to see the Dutch parliament around noon today, or civil servants going out for lunch, witnessed a strange football soccer contest on the main square before the parliament building. A group of students from Zimbabwe, in yellow shirts, were competing against a member of the Dutch parliament, in an orange shirt.
Both sides took turns taking penalty shots. The student team easily won the contest. Not because they were better footballers, but because the rules were rigged in their favour. They distracted the goalkeeper, and they took far more penalties than the MP. For his first penalty, the MP had to use a giant ball which didn't even fit into the goal. The winning team was called Team Mugabe.
The demonstration was organized by Zimbabwean students operating under the name Zimbabwe Watch to call attention to the upcoming elections there. The students are all activists, and all victims of Robert Mugabe's repressive regime.
'The only way out'
One of the players, Washington Katema, is in his early twenties. He was expelled "for life" from his native Zimbabwe, after being arrested 18 times for publicizing abuses by the authorities. He found his way here, to the Netherlands, where he is pursuing his masters degree in Development and Social Justice.
"Coming to the Netherlands was my only way out. I didn't have any other options."
Robert Mugabe is standing for a sixth term as president of Zimbabwe. But this Saturday's elections present perhaps his most difficult test in his nearly three decades in power. Long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai, of the opposition MDC, and his former finance minister Simba Makoni are both running against him. The campaign has been characterized by harassment of the opposition, and observers say it is unlikely to be conducted in a free and fair manner.
Pascal Richard, coordinator of Zimbabwe Watch, says the Dutch government should continue to pressure the government of Robert Mugabe to change. Zimbabwe Watch was one of a number of organizations presenting the Zimbabwe People's Charter to the Dutch parliament today. It was adopted by opposition parties in Harare on the 9th of February, and calls for far-reaching reform in Zimbabwe.
The Dutch MP taking part in the rigged football match, Harm-Evert Waalkens of the Labour Party, agrees with Pascal Richard. Waalkens says:
"All signs are on red. The current campaign has not been fair, and the opposition has not been allowed to campaign."
Nonetheless Washington Katema remains hopeful.
"One day I'll go back to Zimbabwe, to build a new Zimbabwe. We are a key part of the future of our country."
26 March 2008
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]