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UK considered honouring Mugabe with membership to elite cricket club

President Robert Mugabe with Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit to the UK in May 1994.

John Major vetoed a Foreign Office idea to offer honorary membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) to Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, saying it was a “dodgy precedent”, records released by the National Archives reveal. The FCO proposed the offer for Mugabe’s 1994 state visit to the UK, stating he was “reportedly keen on cricket”.

The MCC is the world’s most active cricket club, the owner of Lord’s Ground and the guardian of the Laws of the game.

But the prime minister, a cricket fan and MCC member, refused. His 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.” The Zimbabwean high commission were, however, aware of the proposal and believed Mugabe would welcome it.

Major’s government had invited Mugabe in an apparent effort to improve relations; Major’s government had even restored some of the financial aid that Margaret Thatcher had cut off when the country was misusing it, violating the terms of their independence pact.

The state visit came not long after Zimbabwe carried out the 1987 massacre of the ethnic Ndebele group, a series of events known as the Gukurahundi, but it became more widely scrutinized later, after Mugabe “stole” his country’s 2008 presidential election, as Samantha Power wrote for TIME in 2008. As news of Mugabe’s opponents being slaughtered made headlines, the Queen revoked his knighthood “as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe has presided,” the Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement.Guardian/Time.

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