According to Immigration Department sources, Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart picked up Mr Howard at the Harare International Airport yesterday afternoon.

The Herald is reliably informed that Minister Coltart accompanied Mr Howard to dinner at Australian Ambassador Mr John Courtney’s official residence in Harare.

Minister Coltart was yesterday curt when asked about Mr Howard’s visit.

"Why can’t you talk to Zimbabwe Cricket? He is meeting them tomorrow," he said before switching off his mobile phone.

Ironically, Mr Howard in 2007 cancelled the Australian cricket team’s tour of Zimbabwe saying it would legitimise President Mugabe’s rule.

President Mugabe is the patron of Zimbabwe Cricket.

Mr Howard claimed President Mugabe would use the tour for propaganda purposes and opted to pay US$2 million to the ICC as a penalty for the cancellation.

Before that, Mr Howard’s government had imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe in an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2002 Presidential elections won by President Mugabe.

In 2007 his administration deported children of senior Government officials who were studying in Australia.

Mr Howard was also instrumental in Zimbabwe’s initial suspension from Commonwealth Councils in 2002.

Zimbabwe subsequently pulled out of the club of former British colonies in December 2003.

In May 2007, Australian Foreign Minister Mr Alexander Downer — under Mr Howard’s tenure — said they would extend A$18 million to fund the opposition in Zimbabwe ahead of the 2008 harmonised elections in contravention of the Political Parties (Finance) Act.

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