The Herald (Harare)

15 February 2013

Zimbabwe: David Coltart Responds

opinion

I think the best thing is for you to read Henry Olonga's book (Blood, Sweat and Treason) which sets out an accurate record of what happened in 2003. In essence I was approached by them for advice

and I strongly advised them not to boycott but to play and to have a dignified demonstration which would not disrupt the game.

I did go to Cape Town but as you will see from Henry's book contrary to what has been alleged I encouraged England to come and play.

Also it has been alleged that somehow I am responsible for England not coming to play recently. You know that is nonsense -- I was the person who went to Australia and NZ (New Zealand) and got both countries to come.

I also went to Ireland and Scotland and persuaded both to come - Ireland came but Scotland were blocked.

I have had several meeting with the British Government, including William Hague, and in all have tried to persuade England to come. So we need a bit of truth to be written and you are the best person to do that.

Also I had no role whatsoever to play in the player fallout in 2004. I was devastated by that because it undermined cricket, a game I have a deep passion for.

So, I hope you will see that there is no basis for this allegation. I stress that both Andy and Henry came to me -- I did not initiate their protest, in fact if anything I moderated it -- and I have consistently called for foreign teams to continue playing Zimbabwe.

If you are to play your role as a professional journalist you have a duty to enquire what has caused the financial chaos in ZC. How big was their admin staff? How much have top administrators been paid over the last decade?

Why is it that players have not been paid match fees? How is it that some people have become seriously wealthy during their time in full time employment of ZC?

Whilst I have no doubt that the failure of ZC to attract the likes of England has contributed to their financial woes I have tried everything in my power to get them across -- and in fact have been frustrated by my inability to succeed in getting them across.

But is that really the reason why ZC is in such trouble?

If you don't have Henry's book I will gladly get my staff to type out an extract of the relevant pages -- but what I have said is the truth.

Why haven't I responded to the allegation before? Well, that is because I cannot respond to every outrageously false allegation levelled against me, especially when I have been trying to de-personalise this debate in the interests of cricket and sport.

But it is high time veteran journalists like you wrote the truth about this episode. You know this has nothing to do with race. I proposed this measure to the SRC in October last year after we had had numerous incidents relating to selection in many different sports, including football -- remember how I spoke out in Parliament mid-year regarding the exclusion of Knowledge Musona? That is a fact.

The (SRC) DG (Director General, Charles Nhemachena), who as you know is an ex-combatant and a strong person, shared the proposal with the then SRC Board before its term ended and they were in agreement.

It was then part of the agenda for all NSA (National Sports Associations) in a meeting held at the Jameson on the 1st of December 2012, addressed by Charles Nhemachena.

ZC was represented by Titus Zvomuya. After that Nhemachena drafted the final directive -- I had nothing to do with its contents save for my original proposal sent in October. So why would an ex-combatant and the SRC Board be part of a racist plot? The fact of the matter is that a combination of elements, who have much to protect themselves, and political elements (who) made a racial issue out of it.

The measure was never directed at cricket in isolation and indeed has been amended to make it quite clear that the measure is not intended to keep out people like Mangongo, not Makoni for that matter.

But the international best practice is that ex-national players should have a major role in selection. In cricket every top nation (bar NZ and Zim) uses ex-national players as chair/conveners - so why not Zimbabwe?

It is high time, in the interests of sport, that there be fair, balanced and accurate reporting on this issue. You have a duty to put questions to ZC such as why did they not object to this on the 1st of December when told about it?

Why did they change their procedures (unbeknown to all of us) AFTER the 1st of December which brought their selection policy into direct conflict with the directive they knew was coming?

There is more but not for tonight. I have taken you into my confidence and I hope you will not betray it.

Suffice it to say that I have not wanted to engage in this debate but had no choice because I was waiting for the President to approve the new SRC Board which he has now done.

In terms of the SRC Act it is the SRC Board which has to deal with this which it now must do, amongst of course many other pressing things such as organise the Zone VI Games etc.

I have only responded tonight because you put specific questions to me which I was obliged to answer - the point is that I would rather that the SRC Board now acts so that this very unfortunate episode, which has been made that way by unscrupulous forces, can be de-personalised and dealt with in the best interests of sport, not politics.

In closing, I hope you are not going to re-open this wound as the team leaves for the West Indies.

I am very distressed by the conduct of ZC, which I think has been very damaging to the team in the run-up to this crucial series.

If people really love Zimbabwe and cricket they will let this rest, at least until the team is back, so that the team don't have any further humiliation whilst on foreign shores.

It is going to be hard enough as it is without the support of key coaching and fitness personnel being with them.

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