Andy Flower, the former Zimbabwe cricket captain and England coach, hopes his country can emerge from “a quagmire of corruption” following the death of ex-president Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe died on Friday at the age of 95, two years after being ousted from power.
In 2003 Flower joined team-mate Henry Olonga in a black armband protest at a World Cup match in Harare – decrying the death of democracy in Zimbabwe.
The brave, and potentially dangerous, stand ended the international careers of both men and Flower moved to England, eventually going on to become a three-time Ashes winning coach of the national team.
In a statement released to the PA news agency, he responded to Mugabe’s death noting his history of opposition to the regime and his wishes for a brighter future under new leadership.
“I am very obviously reticent to praise Robert Mugabe in any way. He was not a good man. He subjugated his people and allowed a small group of his chosen elite – his partners in crime – to fleece the country,” said Flower.
“He has acted with incredible cruelty to the average Zimbabwean, completely mismanaging what could be a thriving economy.
“I shook hands with him on a number of occasions in my role as a Zimbabwean cricketer, but never conversed with him. The opportunity to do so certainly disappeared after the black armband protest with Henry Olonga in 2003 to mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe. We wanted to highlight the human-rights abuses occurring at the time.
“I do believe, that given the chance, the country’s young, with a zealous focus on integrity and growth could once again see Zimbabwe thrive and push towards a rightful place as a role model for other African countries.
“I hope that people such as David Coltart and Henry Olonga, role models of courage and selflessness, will inspire future leaders to guide us out of the quagmire of corruption the country has been consumed by for so long.”
Flower, who still works for the England and Wales Cricket Board, went on to question whether any such progress could be realised under the president Emmerson Mnangagwa – a long-time Mugabe ally in the ZANU-PF party.
“It can’t happen under the current rein of Mnangagwa, this is for certain, but institutional immorality cannot stay in place forever,” he continued.
“My true optimism sits in hoping that this regime ends soon, the people of Zimbabwe deserve better.”