Their home country, Zimbabwe national team cricketers Henry Olonga, the team's first black player, and Andy Flower, its top batsman. Since Feb. II, when the two wore black armbands in a first-round match at the World Cup in South Africa to protest what the players called "the death of democracy" in Zimbabwe under president Robert Mugabe, Olonga has received several anonymous threatening e-mails. "They say, 'Watch out if you try to come back to Zimbabwe,' " he told London's Sunday Mail. "There has been talk of treason charges, which carry the death penalty." After alleged members of Mugabe's secret police were spotted in the stands during Zimbabwe's loss to Sri Lanka last Friday, Olonga took refuge at a friend's house in South Africa. While in hiding he is trying to obtain political asylum in England, where Flower, who has a home in Essex, has already gone with his family.
Zimbabwe's sole ruler since 1980, Mugabe (right) has been accused by Amnesty International of various human rights abuses. His government has been widely charged with relying on violent intimidation tactics, including murder, and many observers believe his reelection last year was rigged. Mugabe's practices have been heavily criticized by the U.S. and England, whose national cricket team refused to play a World Cup match against Zimbabwe out of fear for its safety. "Andy and I respect England hugely for what they did," said Olonga, who is weighing an offer to join the Essex pro team on which Flower plays.
The World Cup concluded without violence on Sunday as Australia beat India in the finals. That same day Zimbabwe's Harare Daily News praised Olonga and Flower for "boldly daring to publicly condemn what had to be condemned, you have been a powerful inspiration to many. Go well, men of moral courage."