TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
SA A have taken unusual security precautions for their tour to Zimbabwe, where protests over unpaid salaries, lack of job opportunities and police corruption have burgeoned into a nationwide stay away.
Ninety-five people were arrested on Monday in the midst of violent clashes between public and police, and the government has been accused of partially shutting down parts of the internet in a bid to curb organisation of the unrest.
Nonetheless, the SA A squad crossed the Limpopo on Wednesday to play their Zimbabwean counterparts in two four-day matches starting in Harare on Saturday.
TMG Digital understands they did so only after the situation was assessed by a Close Protection Officer (CPO) and that the squad have been accompanied by a CPO.
Those measures are routinely taken for tours involving the senior national side but not for A team tours.
Sources say the players were concerned and asked about the security scenario before departing, and that “Zim cricket assured them that everyone would be alright”.
That view was echoed by Zimbabwe Cricket spokesperson Darlington Majonga, who told TMG Digital on Thursday: “There’s nothing to worry about. All security measures have been taken.
“Generally, it’s calm in Zimbabwe. I’m not sure if you have followed the news today. Yesterday was their stay away.”
Lions chief executive Greg Fredericks was satisfied that his three players in the squad, Stephen Cook, Dwaine Pretorius and Hardus Viljoen, would be safe.
“Obviously precautions have been taken,” Fredericks said. “They are there under Cricket SA’s (CSA) banner and we trust the advice CSA have been given.”
SA A’s tour will be watched from New Zealand, whose national team are due to arrive in Zimbabwe on July 20 to play two tests.
“We are monitoring closely what is happening in Zimbabwe,” New Zealand Cricket public affairs manager Richard Boock told the New Zealand Herald. “There are no plans to delay the players leaving New Zealand.”
But the Kiwis, who will prepare for their tour at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria from Wednesday until July 19, have given themselves options.
“While in camp in Pretoria we will be able to keep an eye on what is going on,” Boock was quoted as saying. “SA A are in Harare at present and we will be liaising with CSA and the British High Commission in Harare.”