The 2003 Cricket World Cup : implications for identity formation and democratization prospects for Zimbabwe

Abstract :

There can he little doubt about the ability of major international sporting events to capture the aspirations and hopes of nations. These events have an uncanny ability of seemingly effortlessly doing what a hundred speeches and mass rallies by politicians could only hope to achieve. Therefore, it is no surprise that they are commonly understood to be able to bring nations and people together and provide a focus for national identity and unity. The 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa is an obvious proponent of such a claim, whereby South Africa was emerging from a long and arduous political transition and needed something more than going to the polling booths to unite the nation. Major international sporting events are also said to be able to provide a catalyst or incentive for democratization and human rights enhancement in authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes. The 1988 Olympics in South Korea is a landmark of such claims whereby the South Korean government was said to bow to the democratizing pressures exerted on it due to its hosting of the event. Many have argued that China’s hosting of the Olympics in 2008 will have a similar effect. However, equally potent, major international sporting events can have various unintended consequences in terms of identity formation, democratization prospects and human rights for the host nations. An analysis of South Africa and Zimbabwe’s co-hosting of the 2003 Cricket World Cup demonstrates this point. The outcomes of the study suggest that whilst it is normally the intention for the host nations to use the games to bring nations and people together, the Cricket World Cup opened up a rift between races, both within the race contours of the cricket playing Commonwealth world and within South Africa’s domestic politics. It was also established that much like the 1995 Rugby World Cup had sought to reconcile blacks and whites domestically under the Rainbow Nation during Mandela’s presidency, the 2003 Cricket World Cup, with its more regional focus and under Mbeki’s presidency, presented an excellent opportunity for transnational reconciliation between Africa and the Anglo-Saxon world. However, the 2003 Cricket World Cup, as a project in racial reconciliation, was essentially a failure. This was predominantly due to the choice by South Africa of Zimbabwe as co-host and due to the shift of South Africa’s national identity from that of the Rainbow Nation under Mandela, to that of Africanism under Mbeki. President Mbeki’s drive towards Africanism proved divisive both trans-nationally and domestically. Symbolically, the Cricket World Cup, when compared with the 1995 Rugby World Cup, had served to highlight the decline of the Rainbow Nation. Zimbabwe’s co-hosting of the event had served to further entrench the authoritarian regime. Instead of the regime opening up due to its co-hosting of the event, a broad clampdown on civil and political liberties was experienced. The Zimbabwean government felt the need to tighten its grip during the lead up to the event and throughout the tournament itself. The aim was to project a sanitized view of Zimbabwe to the rest of the world. Thus, the event presented an opportunity for the government to shore up its credibility and produce political propaganda. South Africa’s stance of quiet diplomacy also indirectly helped to further entrench the regime through the World Cup. Zimbabwe’s co-hosting also impacted negatively on the opposition, the MDC. In addition to this, the various pressures which major events are said to exert on a host nation to reform politically and which result from boycott campaigns, pressure from the media, stimulation of civil society and protests, were not very effective in enhancing democratization prospects and human rights in Zimbabwe. This study reaches the overall conclusion that the claims that major events bring nations and people together and provide a catalyst or incentive for democratization and human rights enhancement in authoritarian regimes, need further revision. South Africa and Zimbabwe’s co-hosting of the event did indeed have unintended consequences. Policy implications are also assessed. Future areas for research are also identified.



Author Van der Merwe JDS
Date Accessioned 2016-09-22T08:34:43Z
Date Available 2016-09-22T08:34:43Z
Date Created
Identifier URL 2004
Language English
Subject Politics in Southern Africa
Subject 2 Politics in Southern Africa
Alternative Title
Degree Type Masters degree
Degree Description  MPhil