The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Coltart Turns Gun On Media

ON the eve of the day when the controversial directive on national team selectors comes into effect, Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart yesterday shifted his guns to take aim at local journalists who have questioned his move.

Zimbabwe Cricket have already advised the Sports Commission that they can't implement the directive because it is tantamount to violating their constitution and contractual obligations with some employees.

ZC convenor of selectors Givemore Makoni claims the directive has a racial tone because it ignores the fact that people like him were blocked from playing for their country at a time when the national team was a closed shop.

Makoni has since named the Zimbabwe cricket team that will tour the West Indies where he is also scheduled to go in his official role as the ZC convenor of selectors.

Last week, Coltart claimed there was a political ring to the way ZC were rejecting the directives which stipulate that the leader of their panel of selectors should have played the game at national level.

Yesterday, Coltart turned his guns on journalists saying they were being used by some shadowy forces, who were operating in the background, and claimed a lot of money was being splashed in the board battles.

"I was warned separately two weeks ago by two Zimbabwean editors (one of a leading weekly and the other of a leading online paper -- both black for those who would seek to play a racial card) that a lot of money would be put into fighting a dirty battle regarding the national selectors issue by powerful actors behind the scenes who are trying to protect their own deep-rooted personal interests," Coltart said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.

"They have been proved right.

"The amount of distortion, outright falsehoods and deliberate omissions of fact in this debate is astonishing. That some of this has now come from ostensibly independent journalists is shocking.

"One expects biased, partisan and unbalanced copy from Government-controlled media, but not from some that purport to be professional and independent."

Coltart appears to have picked up a fight with journalists from the so-called independent media, who have dared question his motives and warned that the directive had the capacity of re-opening old racial wounds in cricket.

That such journalists have dared to question him, it appears, has apparently angered Coltart.

"Would those journalists out there purporting to be independent please tell me what is racist about expecting Zimbabwe to follow international best practice and to allow, in cricket, some of our finest black ex-national players such as David Mutendera, Ethan Dube and Douglas Hondo to be selectors?" asked Coltart.

"All are in fact willing and more than capable of performing that role.

"Has any professional journalist out there taken the time to ask our international sports people, across the colour divide, what they think about this issue?

"No-one rational democratically minded person expects any journalist to slavishly follow one line and I certainly don't expect all independent, professional journalists to agree with this directive.

"I do, however, expect professional journalists to write the truth and to provide balance in their stories, which has just not happened.

"Ironically, The Herald has shown more balance than some of the journalists writing in the independent press. Those who purport to be independent, professional journalists need to think why they are on precisely the same side of this debate as Jonathan Moyo -- and using similar methods to him in their lack of balance and deliberate obfuscation of truth and fairness in their reporting."

House of Assembly Member, Jonathan Moyo, severely criticised Coltart, in an article in The Sunday Mail this week, saying he was pursuing a racist and divisive agenda.

Coltart's defence, once again, was to find comfort in politics.

"Jonathan Moyo's incoherent rant against me today in The Sunday Mail regarding the new National Sports Association selectors' policy reveals very clearly the political machinations behind the few individuals who are opposed to it solely to protect their personal interests," said Coltart on his Facebook page.

"To that extent it is a very useful article because it exposes the depravity and true source of the arguments against this measure which is designed to improve Zimbabwe's sporting performance and bring it in line with international best practice.

"I suppose in an election year it is inevitable that unscrupulous people are perfectly happy to allow politics to obstruct national progress."

Yesterday, Coltart also brought Moyo into the picture in the ensuing debate that followed his post attacking the journalists who have dared to question him.

While most of those who contributed to the debate, were apparently in support of Coltart, three contributions were telling.

"Jonathan Moyo offered facts against your policy and Coltart (is) failing to counter his arguments, instead he is sounding as if it's a must for independent newspapers to support anything he utters because he is MDC," wrote Innocent T Machekano.

He received support from Dalaza kaNdlovu.

"So Coltart suggests that one can't be a professional journalist and also be on the same side of the debate as Jonathan Moyo? That's plain crazy...the man needs come up with a better argument than that!

Charles Dube said rather than focus on the politics and the individuals, it was important to look at the substance of the issues being raised.

"I thought Jonathan Moyo raised some valid sounding arguments against your position, the racial reason apart," wrote Dube.

"A counter argument from you that explains you out of his argument would be good for both you and us. Appeals to who has raised the arguments and personality insinuations on Jonathan might not help here, except in just canvassing and holding to your side the feeble-minded who look more into who and not substance."

Last week, Zimbabwean journalist, Darlington Majonga, engaged Coltart in a debate on Facebook when the minister, for the first time, swung the political bat.

Majonga had questioned why Coltart appears determined that changing the selectors would bring changes to the fortunes of the national cricket team.

"While your directive at face value appears noble, well-intended and in good faith, I think you are barking up the wrong tree," wrote Majonga.

"Even if we are to have Sunil Gavaskar, Anil Kumble, Brian Lara or any of the game's greatest yesteryear players as our selectors, Zimbabwe would not suddenly start conquering the cricket world."

Coltart then replied:

"We desperately need to pick our best teams in all sports in a colour, ethnically and regionally blind manner. Until we do so we will not play with our best teams . . . and that applies to all.

"Can you ever imagine Zimbabwe Cricket adopting this attitude if it was a Zanu-PF Minister involved?

"Politicians are not just those who have formal political positions."

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