North Korean world cup soccer team which announced that it will have a
brief training camp in Zimbabwe has been told that they are not welcomed.
The Koreans, two weeks ago said they will set up a training camp in
Matabeleland region, an area which saw nearly 20 000 people massacred
in the early 1980s by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.
Memories are still fresh and they have threatened a series of protests at the team’s camp, their hotel and matches in South Africa.
Zapu spokesperson, Methuseli Moyo said the invitation of the North Koreans was “very provocative and insensitive”.
The Gukurahundi massacres targeted Zapu supporters after President
Robert Mugabe deployed the army to fight “dissidents”.
“We are totally against bringing the team to Zimbabwe, the reason being the fact that they trained the Fifth Brigade which went on to kill tens of thousands of our supporters. Having a team flying the North Korean flag is very provocative,” Moyo said.
So serious are the concerns that Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi has begged for peace from activists in Matabeleland in the wake of planned
protests against the government’s invitation of the North Korean soccer team to camp.
The team is expected in Zimbabwe on May 25. Mzembi appealed for people in Matabeleland “not to mix sport with politics” and allow national healing to take place.
“As Minister of Tourism, my brief is to invite teams to come to the country, and only one team (North Korea) responded,” said Mzembi. “The basis of my invitation which we extended even to England and the United States was that sport must remain the bridge for people-to-people contact, probably the only bridge that has remained standing even when nation states are in a state of fallout.
“I wouldn’t want to make this a political issue; it is purely a sports issue.”
But Moyo said if that was the idea, then North Korea was a wrong choice.
“North Koreans are not known to be tourists, I don’t think bringing them will attract anyone to visit Zimbabwe.
“It is basically a continuation of the friendship between Zanu PF and North Korea,” argued Moyo.
“It is actually insensitive for the inclusive government at the time of national healing to bring a team that is known to Zimbabweans more for its evil association with Gukurahundi exercise than for its footballing and tourism reputation.
“If they come to Bulawayo, we will do all in our powers to make them aware we are not happy.”
Effie Ncube, an activist with the Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda
in Bulawayo, said more than 30 church and civil society organisations
concerned with human rights issues have begun mobilising against the
invitation by Zimbabwe’s tourism minister.
Ncube says protests have been planned during the North Korean team’s
stay in Zimbabwe. According to him the protests would go ahead if the lobbying of political parties and the government fails.
“We’ve had no response from government yet. But we don’t expect them to respond, especially on the issue of Gukurahundi, which nobody is allowed to really speak about,” said Ncube.
Almost 20 years after the massacre, Mugabe has not apologised to the
victims but only said “it was a moment of madness”.