After Ahmadinejad visit, Zimbabwe now set to host North Korea World Cup team
Days after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped by, Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe gets ready to host North Korea's soccer team in the run-up to the World Cup.
Cape Town, South Africa; and Harare, Zimbabwe
Several days ago, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe rolled out the red carpet for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reportedly in celebration of a secret deal for Zimbabwe to receive Iranian oil in exchange for access to the large amounts of uranium ore thought to be under its soil.Skip to next paragraph
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During the visit, Mr. Ahmadinejad trumpeted solidarity with the troubled nation, slammed Western nations' "satanic pressures on the people of Zimbabwe," and predicted "humiliation and defeat for our enemies."
But that was last week.
For many Zimbabweans, however, news of the arrangement is unacceptable. After all, it was North Korea's military that trained Mugabe's notorious Fifth Brigade, which killed an estimated 20,000 people in the 1980s.
“Our position is that North Korea is not welcome in Zimbabwe," says Methuseli Moyo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) party, which has threatened widespread protests timed to the team's arrival. "We are wondering why the people in the Government of National Unity are being [so] insensitive as to bring the same people who caused bloodshed and deaths to our region. They are just looking at the monetary values of this visit, but the fact of the matter is that it will reopen old wounds. There is nothing special about the North Koreans except that they are warmongers and nuclear power specialists.
“If they come here, thousands of ZAPU supporters will express themselves in any way they deem fit, even through violence," says Mr. Moyo. "For now, we will not disclose what course of action we will take, but they are not welcome.”
'Purely a sports issue?'
The North Koreans will stay two weeks until June 6, when they will move to their main World Cup base in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Mr. Muzembi, who estimates that the team’s visit and the presence of World Cup-bound tourists could bring in $100 million, defended the North Korean team's stay.
“Sport is different from politics," says Muzembi. "It is unfortunate that people mix these things. I wouldn't want to make this a political issue. It’s purely a sports issue.”