The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Chingoka Lifts Racism Lid

ZIMBABWE Cricket chairman, Peter Chingoka, has blown the lid off the curse of racism stalking the sport with a chilling account of ugly incidents that have poisoned a game struggling to bury the ghost of its racially divided past.

The long-serving ZC chairman, who has been the game's leader since 1992, said his sport has to face its racism challenges and has called for a stakeholders' conference to discuss the issue.

Cricket has been in the spotlight, in the past month, with accusations being traded between some of the game's leaders, especially convenor of selectors Givemore Makoni, and Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, David Coltart.

This followed a directive by the Sports Commission for new guidelines on the appointment of national team selectors which triggered a backlash from some within the cricket fraternity who argued that it was meant to elbow them out of the game's administrative structures.

ZC told the Sports Commission, in an official response last week, that it would be illegal for them to comply with their regulations as that would mean a violation of the organisation's constitution.

Now ZC chairman Peter Chingoka, speaking for the first time on the thorny issue, said cricket had to face the reality that it was still haunted by its racist past.

"The unfolding debate concerning the Sport and Recreation Commission Directive NSA 1/2013, issued by the Sport and Recreation Commission on Thursday, 10 January, 2013, has put the spotlight on race issues within our cricket community," Chingoka wrote to his fellow board members, franchise leaders, national team players and provincial leaders.

"Preceding this directive, there have been a number of incidents that highlight a disturbing trend.

"In 2001, Zimbabwe Cricket set up the Integrated Task Force whose sole purpose was to ensure the full and equitable nationwide integration of Zimbabwe Cricket in the shortest possible time with the least possible reduction in individual team performance.

"Evidenced by the number of Zimbabweans now playing the game at a professional level, the Task Force was successful in moving cricket from an elitist sport to a national one.

"But, as stated above, there have been recent incidents that are disturbing." The ZC chairman said his sporting discipline was not as united as the image it was projecting to outsiders.

"There have been reports of black and white players using separate buses on senior team tours," said Chingoka in his letter.

"At the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 Cricket World Cup held in Australia in August last year, white batsmen alleged that blacks were bowling short-pitched balls to them in the nets and counter allegations by black bowlers were that white fielders where reluctant to restrict runs from their deliveries.

"Our domestic leagues have not been spared either, as there has been a marked increase in the number of disciplinary hearings initiated by allegations of racism.

"In view of the unfolding media debate and the unacceptable incidents referred to above, it would appear that there is still some progress to be made in addressing the imbalances of the past and re-integrating the sport to accommodate all Zimbabweans, regardless of colour, social background or gender.

"Several years ago Zimbabwe Cricket coined the motto "Excellence In Diversity," and it is what drives us. Cricket is a game for all and we have no reservations in saying that discrimination, where it is proved to exist, and whether brought about intentionally or as a result of other factors, should not be tolerated in any way or form."

The ZC boss said it was important for everyone in the game to come forward and discuss this thorny issue.

"To this end, we are proposing that the cricket community hold a stakeholders' conference whose sole objective is to discuss and unpack the elements of our strained race relations with the objective of creating mutual understanding and dealing with the demons that continue to haunt our sport," said Chingoka.

"On the national team's return from the West Indies in March 2013, the Managing Director, Wilfred Mukondiwa, will facilitate an open forum for stakeholders of the game. The date and venue will be advised in invitations that will be sent to the participants.

Let us put a stop to innuendos, hidden agendas and politics of divisiveness, for if we all say that we are of the cricket family, then we must give cricket a fighting chance."

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