22 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Coltart Should Face His Demons


Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart's article in yesterday's issue of The Herald about selectors, cricket and myself, cannot go unchallenged. Although the Minister was responding to an article by The Herald's Robson Sharuko, published on Saturday, he draws me into the subject and, I feel, I also have a right to be heard.

The Minister was challenged to answer a key question, as to whether there were any people whose path to the national cricket team in this country was blocked by the colour of their skin and, if that was the case, how should those people be treated when playing for the same national team, where they were blocked, becomes the ticket to hold certain positions in the same game?

Sharuko's question was linked to me, because I had raised the issue, and also argued why should I be judged, on the basis of whether or not I had played for the national team given the challenges people like me faced.

Coltart, in his answer, asks a question as to who are those people who could have been victims of racial prejudice, in their quest to play for the national cricket team, and how many are they out there.

He even questions if I was good enough to make the grade, not only in the national team, but even in the provincial one like Mashonaland, by giving examples of some black cricketers who played for such teams who were about my age.

To me, this simply shows that the Minister is not well versed when it comes to issues that we faced as black cricketers and needs a lengthy session of education so that he can start to appreciate where we are coming from, where we are right now and where we want to be.

I find it annoying that the Minister tries to ignore our history, as blacks trying to play cricket in Zimbabwe at that time.

Clubs like Bionics and Takashinga identified and nurtured a whole generation of black players, who found their path to the national teams blocked, and who could find themselves being told that you cannot be the convenor of selectors, today, because they didn't play for the national team.

I'm not sure if these people, just like me, wish to be involved in the selection process of the national team but that doesn't mean their cases should not be highlighted because it's the system that we need to highlight, which I believed is being structured in a very wrong way.

I hope the Minister has heard of these people -- Blessing Zikhali, one of the best spinners ever produced in this country and in my opinion second only to John Traicos, for all his excellent talent, he never made it to the national team.


What about Barry Ribatika, Walter Chawaguta, who developed into a coach good enough to take charge of the same national team that he couldn't play for, Shepherd Makunura, Emmanuel Dube, Crispen Pswarayi, Nick Singo, Patrick Gada, Moses Chitare, Blessing Ngondo?

What about Farai Nongerai, the fastest bowler in the country during his time, who only went as far a Board XI and was frustrated by the system he had to take up the fight with some white players over the race issue?

What about Mike Pemhiwa, a top order left-hander who was nothing but class and scored lots of runs during his time, averaging way better than a lot of white players, but never had a chance to play for Zimbabwe, let alone first class cricket?

What about Blessing Zikhali, Kudzai Shoko, Blessing Ngondo, Mike Pemhiwa, Franchis Ncube the late Paul Musikiwa, Stanley Mwale, George Tandi, the Mudede brothers?

What about Darlington Matambanadzo, Bruce Makova, Lazarus Zizhou, George Tandi, Claudius Mukandiwa, Square Square, Stanley Timoni, Paul Musekiwa, Dakarayi Kuhlengisa, Admire Marodza, all these players Minister, not good enough for the national team?

You talked about the Under-15 trials I attended in '88, and I have to say they remind me of the day when I had to borrow a bat from Steve Mangongo, who was a good player, but never made it to the national team.

When you write the history of cricket in this country and you don't include Steve Mangongo, people will tell you that there is a chapter missing, it will be dismissed as one that isn't a true reflection of the game.

But for all his legendary status now, and his rightful place in the history books of our cricket, Steve never played for the national team, not because he wasn't good enough, but because there were hurdles for people like him and me.

Surely, after what Steve has done, can you tell me that he is not qualified to be the convenor of selectors in cricket if he wishes to take such a post because he didn't play for the national team?

And this is the same man who groomed most of the black players that we see today.

So it's not only Makoni who will be affected, it's a whole generation.

The Minister uses a sporting discipline like triathlon to illustrate the point that his move cannot be deemed racist, the same way he used bowls the other day.

Firstly, triathlon is still a minority sport and does not have a similar history to cricket.

At no stage in its history was there ever a fight between blacks and whites over selection to the national team.

The Minister wants to give an impression that the issue of black players being blocked from representing their national team in cricket is something new.

This issue raised its ugly head years ago and Zimbabwe Cricket had to act by appointing an independent management consultant, Dr Zackrison, to lead the Integration and Task force committee, whose mandate was to find out whether there was racism in Zimbabwe Cricket.

Why would the ZC spend a lot of money on such expensive consultancy, to try and resolve things, if the issue of racism in cricket was not that serious?

When you invest in such programmes, you trying to find a way forward, so that the nation and the game can move on, and it's not about individuals as appears to be the case with the measures related to the selectors.

Now that the Minister has decided to answer the few questions raised by Sharuko, would it be possible for him to publicly respond to all the issues that have arisen from this debate?

Did he lead a delegation to Cape Town to meet the England cricket team during the 2003 World Cup and advise them not to fulfill its World Cup fixture in Zimbabwe arguing that it was not correct, from both a cricket and a political standpoint, for England to do so?

Was he in any way involved in the donning of black armbands by Andy Flower and Henry Olonga to mourn the "death of democracy" during a World Cup match in 2003?

Why can't the Minister give us the full story of what happened in bowls ahead of last year's World Bowls Championships in Australia and who were the players who complained to him about selection?

Why is it that the issues being raised by the Minister are virtually the same issues that were raised by the white players, during the rebellion in 2004, and the only difference is now that they are being raised by someone in Government who has a bigger influence in sport as the Minister?

The Minister talks about the team not performing and gives this impression that the old team, which was dominated by whites, was better.

While they were competitive, they didn't do anything out of this world and we were always the lowest ranked nation in Tests.

Why doesn't the Minister consider that the team of Andy Flower and company benefited a lot from the tours, going to England, Australia and all the places to play, and also hosting those teams here?

How do you compare a team that benefited from such exposure with one that is now playing one Test series in one year? It takes us back to those political decisions to persuade teams like England not to come. That's the consequence of such actions Minister.

l Givemore Makoni is the Zimbabwe Cricket convenor of selectors and chief executive of Southern Rocks cricket franchise.

Copyright © 2013 The Herald. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.