By Staff Reporter
A DECISION by the UK Foreign Office to offer the now late President Robert Mugabe an honorary membership of the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) during his visit to that country in 1994 was shot down by then British Prime Minister, John Major.
This is revealed in records availed last week by the UK’s National Archives.
In 1994, Mugabe undertook a state visit to the UK and before his arrival, its Foreign Office proposed to Major, the Zimbabwe leader be conferred with an honorary membership of the MCC because he loved cricket, and it would be an “appropriate gesture”.
However, Major, also a cricket fan and an MCC member, vetoed the idea claiming it would set a “dodgy precedent” the National Archives records shows.
THE MCC is a cricket club founded in 1787 and based since 1814 at Lord’s Cricket Ground, which it owns, in St John’s Wood, London. The club was formerly the governing body of cricket, still holds considerable global influence.
Major’s handwriting on a Downing Street memo noted: “I’d leave it. Many MCC members won’t like it + it is a dodgy precedent.”
One of Major’s private office staff replied to the Foreign Office: “I trust that Mugabe’s staff have not got wind of it.”
However, according to the national Archive’s records, the Zimbabwean high commission were aware of the proposal and believed Mugabe would welcome it.
Mugabe who died in 2019 in Singapore at the age 95, was a complex character who left a mixed legacy of bringing independence to Zimbabwe, but led to the country’s destruction.
On his love for cricket, he once remarked; “Cricket civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket in Zimbabwe. I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen.”
Mugabe was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen then stripped of the honour, an insult he never forgave.
Despite his venom directed at the UK from 2000 onwards after Zimbabwe embarked on its controversial land reform programme, Mugabe remained, in essence, an English gentleman.
He was at most times dressed in immaculate, dark, three-piece suits and ties – until he was given a makeover in 2000 and advised to hold campaign rallies in brightly coloured cloth emblazoned with his own face.