16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Coltart to Consider Views

EDUCATION, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, David Coltart, has opened a window to embrace more views to address concerns raised by stakeholders in the wake of a new directive guiding the appointing of national team selectors.

Coltart said yesterday the directive wasn't cast in stone, raising the possibility for some panel-beating exercise, before it can be effected as policy to guide the appointment of national team selectors.

The Sports Commission had directed that, from February 1 this year, all national team selectors, in sporting disciplines that have a panel of such officials, need to have represented Zimbabwe for them to qualify for such technical portfolios.

But the directive raise a fierce storm, especially in cricket, with Zimbabwe Cricket convenor of selectors, Givemore Makoni, who didn't play for the national team during his time, suggesting that it was meant to push him out of office.

Makoni also claimed the directive had racial connotations and did not address the key issue that he was part of a generation of players whose path into the national team was blocked by a shadowy quota system that only allowed, at most, just two black players to represent Zimbabwe.

Iconic Zimbabwean athlete, Kirsty Coventry, said while she was fully behind Coltart, she felt there was need to open the selection to other players who might necessarily not have played the game at the highest level by representing their country.

Yesterday, Coltart paid tribute to this newspaper, for what he termed a balanced coverage of the controversy in yesterday's edition, and said he would open a window to embrace more views.

"Thank you to the Herald for your fair and balanced reporting of the National Selectors issue this morning," Coltart wrote on his Facebook page.

"I was concerned over the weekend that there would not be balance on such an emotive issue but you have done Zimbabwe proud.

"It is important that we all now move forward on this issue.

"In the interests of sport I hope that all further comment on this issue, if any, will be done by Rtd Col Charles Nhemachena and the SRC in conjunction with National Sports Associations.

"I reiterate that these directives are not written in stone and we will listen carefully to the views of all Associations to improve them.

"In particular, I have considered and am in support of Kirsty Coventry 's suggestion that a minority of selector posts be kept open for coaches or other people with technical expertise who may not have played for Zimbabwe, so long as the majority and Chair/Convenor are ex national sportspersons."

Questions had, inevitably, been asked about how a person like Steve Mangongo, who is set to replace his boss, Alan Butcher, as Zimbabwe cricket team coach in April, could be deemed good enough to take full charge of the senior team but not qualified enough to be a selector.

Englishman Butcher is not seeking an extension of his contract, when it ends, saying he now needs time to be with his wife and family back home.

Mangongo has been Butcher's lieutenant, the assistant coach, in a coaching set-up that also has a bowling coach, Heath Streak, and a batting coach, Grant Flower.

Mangongo's seniority would certainly brighten his chances of landing the big job.

But there was a problem.

The new directive issued by the Sports Commission, for national team selectors to have played for Zimbabwe, meant that while Mangongo was qualified to be the next national coach, he wasn't qualified to be a selector.

In Zimbabwe Cricket, the national coach becomes one of the selectors, and the current three-man panel features Givemore Makoni (convenor), Wayne James and national coach Butcher.

James made four Test and 11 ODI appearances for Zimbabwe in the late '80s and early '90s as a batsman and also kept wicket for the national tea.

While Butcher will qualify to retain his place on the selectors' panel, because he played one Test for England, Mangongo wouldn't, in the event that he replaced the Englishman as coach. If there is a case that exposed the weaknesses of the Sports Commission's directive, then it has to be Mangongo's case.

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