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June 14, 2010

No World Cup Bonus for Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans say they are disappointed the football World Cup in neighboring South Africa has brought no tourists, teams or excitement to their country.  Many people believe the political situation is the main reason for Zimbabwe's failure to attract visitors.

Several World Cup fans in South Africa for the first time say they did not consider visiting neighboring Zimbabwe because they were uncertain about the political situation there.

One Australian visiting Johannesburg said he would have liked to visit Zimbabwe, but decided not to because he was not sure whether he would be welcome.  He said Zimbabwe's international reputation was "difficult."

In Harare, many people say they are disappointed there have been no spin offs from the World Cup.  Most blamed lack of progress in fulfilling all conditions of the global political agreement that was the foundation for formation of a unity government in February last year.

President Robert Mugabe is widely blamed by the international community and political commentators for stalling implementation of the political agreement, and continued selective prosecutions of politicians and human-rights activists.

A Harare businesswoman, who asked not to be identified, said the World Cup should have been an opportunity for Zimbabwe to reposition itself in the international arena.

"What I can say is that it has posed a terrible blow for Zimbabwe, especially in our rebranding efforts and also in terms of trying to resuscitate our economy," she said. "I believe the current political situation in the country is to blame particularly if you look at the outstanding issues."

A businessman said the international community still does not trust Zimbabwe.

"It is also to do with the international community themselves they have not built so much trust and confidence in us as a foreign destination, and also South Africa itself, I think we are still far way from convincing them that we are now a safe destination at the same time a safe investor destination," he said.

President Robert Mugabe repeatedly and persistently blames EU and U.S. travel and financial restrictions against himself and ZANU-PF colleagues for Zimbabwe's desperate economic state, although there are no international trade restrictions against Zimbabwe.

Some Zimbabweans appear to agree with him.

The reason why the foreign teams have failed to come into Zimbabwe, first and foremost, is the sanction and the security of this country," said a Zimbabwean man.

There was a brief moment of excitement in Harare last week when Brazil had a practice match in Zimbabwe.

North Korea was going to use Zimbabwe as its home base for the World Cup, but human-rights activists protested and the team withdrew.  North Korea trained a Zimbabwe army unit that was accused of killing 20,000 opposition supporters in the 1980s in southern Zimbabwe.