Battles re-emerge at Zim Cricket
Harare – For more than a decade, Zimbabwe Cricket was under a relentless savage attack from powerful foreign forces in a vicious assault pregnant with heavy political undertones, which almost brought its house down.
Somehow – and against all odds – the game did not only survive to make a triumphant return to the Test arena, but also emerged out of the crisis with an even a bigger pool of professional players.
The game now enjoys bragging rights as the second-biggest sporting discipline in Zimbabwe after football, and spectacular attendance figures at its flagship Stanbic Twenty20 tournament bore testimony to that.
But, just 15 months after a sensational comeback story to the Test arena, spiced by an unforgettable victory over Bangladesh, concern is mounting that the knives are being sharpened for a fresh assault on Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and its leadership.
The same range of boardroom weapons that were used in ZC’s decade-long persecution – financial management, player and technical officials’ welfare and the performance of the national team – have resurfaced.
This has inevitably triggered a siege mentality at ZC amid concern among some of those who run the sport that the sustained vicious boardroom battles have returned.
There is also concern about the dual role being played by the former MD of ZC, Dave Ellman Brown, who is now a member of the Sport and Recreation Commission executive board.
A flurry of letters have been flying between the Sports Commission and the ZC board in the past month, with the Commission threatening to launch a formal investigation into the country’s cricket controlling body.
The Sports Commission claims that there are “a number of issues that point to state of crisis in the management of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) affairs”.
Some of those issues include ZC’s accumulation of long and short-term debts and an overdraft in excess of US$16 million as of December 31 last year.
“The issues of particular concern to the Commission, and which have also been raised with your by the Minister in the past, revolve around the following:
• Financial management
• Player and technical officials’ welfare
• Performance of the national team
“According to the audited financial statements presented to the (Commission), ZC had accumulated long and short-term debts and an overdraft totaling in excess of US$16 million as at 31 December 2011, and the possibility that this figure might have increased since then.
“The accounts indicate that the institution was technically insolvent as at that date.
“There are also allegations of ZC’s failure to meet other obligations within reasonable time frames such as payment of rent and staff salaries, among others.
“Players and technical officials are also alleged to have gone for long periods without payment,” read a letter from Sports Commission director general Charles Nhemachena, to ZC boss Wilfred Mukondiwa.
The Commission questioned why players were not receiving match fees and bonuses on time and why the performance of the senior national team had deteriorated.
“Kindly note that unless a satisfactory report is received by 7 October 2012, the Commission will proceed to launch a formal investigation in terms of Section 30 of the Sports and Recreation Act,” wrote Nhemachena.
But the ZC leaders insist there is no crisis and their predicament is being blown out of proportion at a time when they should be receiving credit for keeping the game afloat.
The ZC chiefs argue refusing to acknowledge the damage inflicted by the politics that saw the game being used as a sacrificial pawn in a wider battle is naïve.
To argue that ZC should be operating profitably when the organisation is still reeling from the effects of the political machinations of the past decade is narrow.
“It is imperative to remember that ZC lost significant revenue from cancelled tours where certain countries have failed to tour for political reasons.
“It should be noted that the funding cycle for ZC and other cricket boards operates on a four-year cycle and, in the interim period, home boards rely on the basis of home and away matches to augment revenues and balance their books.
“For Zimbabwe, the boycott by certain teams in the current cycle has resulted in ZC losing revenue of up to US$11 million. Against this background, ZC has not stopped its development programmes nor has it failed to honour its international and domestic commitments.
“The (Commission) and the Minister (of Sport, David Coltart), have seen the progression of Zimbabwe Cricket’s debt in annual financial statements and explanations were given that unless the general performance of the team improved and more matches with all members of the ICC Test nations were forthcoming, then Zimbabwe Cricket could easily stem the tide in that progression.”
Other issues raised by the ZC, which they claim have had a negative bearing on the game, are:
· Demonisation of those who were leading the process of correcting the racial imbalances of the past, and emotional reaction to the integration process, with it being linked to Zimbabwe’s land reform programne;
· England, Australia and New Zealand cancelled their tours to Zimbabwe, while Zimbabwe teams and officials were denied visas to some countries;
· The 2003 England side based in Cape Town and due to go to Harare for its World Cup Group A match was visited by politicians who urged them not to tour so that Zimbabwe would be ostracised.
Some England players were quoted saying they were reluctant to shake hands with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, the ZC patron.
· A 2004 enquiry into allegations of racism within ZC, led by Goolam Vahanvati and Judge Steven Majiedt, absolved the ZC of the allegations.
· Because of the politicization of the game, ZC chairman Peter Chingoka and MD Ozias Bvute were slapped with travel restrictions to England and Australia to the detriment of the local game.
· In 2008, Zimbabwe withdrew from the ICC World T20 tournament after the British government said it would not give players and officials visas; and in 2009, New Zealand pulled out of a tour to Zimbabwe ostensibly on the grounds of a cholera epidemic.