The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Cricket Indaba Charms Coltart

EDUCATION, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, David Coltart, has been charmed by the meeting he held with Zimbabwe Cricket leaders on Wednesday and feels it could mark a turning point in their working relationship. Relations between the minister and ZC authorities have been frosty, in recent weeks, damaged by sharp differences over a controversial directive, initiated by Coltart and served by the Sports Commission, to guide the appointment of national team selectors.

ZC rejected the directive, which was supposed to come into effect on February 1 this year, saying it was illegal, divisive and a brazen attack on their constitution with the potential to re-open old wounds in a sporting discipline that has battled racial demons in the past.

The local cricket authorities appear to also have been empowered by the support they have been receiving from the International Cricket Council over the issue.

The friction between the Coltart and ZC hasn't been helped by the return of the black armband protest, into the spotlight, with intimate details emerging of the roles the minister played in that demonstration, and clandestine meetings at England's World Cup base in Cape Town, ahead of the English team's aborted tie against Zimbabwe.

On Wednesday Coltart met ZC chairman Peter Chingoka, his deputy Wilson Manase and managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa in Harare and the minister emerged out of that indaba saying he had been impressed by what they discussed.

"I had a constructive meeting with Peter Chingoka, Wilson Manase and Wilfred Mukondiwa of Zimbabwe Cricket this evening," Coltart posted on his Facebook page.

"My hope is that all involved will now work in the best interests of Zimbabwe, sport in general and Zimbabwe Cricket in particular.

"I am delighted by the superb performance of our team in the West Indies today and hope that they take some encouragement from this news and go and do us all proud, as I know they want to do."

Zimbabwe, who take on the West Indies in the first of three ODIs in Grenada today, opened their tour with a 76-run victory over the University of West Indies Vice Chancellor's XI at Progress Park, St Andrews, with opener Vusi Sibanda leading the way with an unbeaten 147 off 173 balls.

Hamilton Masakadza (55), Regis Chakabva (41) and Tino Mawoyo (30) were the other notable contributors as Zimbabwe reached an impressive 346/7 and were, at one stage, 203-1 in 31 overs.

In response, Ramnaresh Sarwan, hit 90 but it was a lost battle and the hosts were bowled out for 269 in the penultimate over.

Coltart insists that his agenda, in terms of national team selectors, has been hijacked and twisted to suit political and related interests.

On Wednesday, the minister claimed our article on Tuesday, in which we said he was now batting on a sticky wicket, contained a lot of misrepresentations.

On Friday ZC accused Coltart of twisting the resolutions of the Sports Commission's quarterly review meeting, with national sports associations, on December 1 last year.

The ZC provided minutes of that December 1 meeting, which clearly didn't show an endorsement of proposals by the national associations, and which certainly left Coltart vulnerable to accusations he could possibly be misrepresenting facts.

Coltart, though, hit back on Wednesday.

"Firstly you twist the fact that following my proposal letter to the SRC in October, the entire process was handled by the SRC," Coltart said.

"You know that because I sent you what the SRC wrote to me but you persist in this falsehood that I have misrepresented what happened regarding the process.

"You had personal knowledge that I was relying on what I have been briefed on by the SRC but you chose to represent that, somehow, I have misrepresented the process.

"Secondly, you twist the clear wording of the minutes of the 1st December -- the heading of the minutes is National Selectors and it speaks of criteria etc. Paragraph 7.3 is clear -- 'NSAs were to have basic criteria for appointment of selectors as well as selection of national teams.'

"The minutes do not record any objections raised and you know from what I wrote to you last week that Nhemachena advised me that no objections were raised.

"I, obviously, was not there so do not know myself what happened in the meeting but it is clear from the minutes that at the very least something re national selectors was discussed.

"The SRC says one thing, ZC another, but surprisingly you do not interrogate the fact that ZC's Titus Zvomuya was present - that is conveniently ignored.

"Why is it that ZC simply does not comment about his presence, they pretend as if he wasn't there, but I have the signed roster clearly indicating that he was present, he is number 21 on the list?

"What I have been told is that this issue was discussed and no objection was raised. Indeed the only objection raised by any NSA to date is ZC's. Is it possible that Titus did not object?

"The point is that you say that I could 'possibly be misrepresenting facts' when there is clear evidence to the contrary."

Coltart is also unhappy that our coverage of the events in Cape Town, in the run-up to England's decision to pull out of their World Cup game against Zimbabwe, appears to ignore Henry Olonga's version and rely on contributions from Andy Flower and Duncan Fletcher.

Fletcher, a former Zimbabwe World Cup captain who was the England team coach then, claims Coltart "smuggled" Flower and Olonga into the English team hotel.

Two questions were asked in this newspaper on Tuesday:

l Did he (Coltart) really, as Duncan Fletcher claims in his autobiography, smuggle Flower and Olonga into the England team hotel in Cape Town and, given these two were employed by ZC, was it right to take them there without the knowledge of his employers?

l Was it right for Coltart to organise secret meetings between Flower and Olonga and the English cricketers, at their base in Cape Town, ahead of a key World Cup game between Zimbabwe and England?

On Wednesday, Coltart replied:

"Thirdly, you twist what happened in Cape Town, clearly set out in Olonga's book, by ignoring what Olonga said happened," said Coltart.

"He states unequivocally that I encouraged England to travel and play while, ironically, Olonga and Flower did the opposite. Why do you ignore what Olonga says about what happened but choose to use Fletcher who knew nothing of the background?

"I certainly did not organise the meeting, nor did I smuggle them in -- in fact Olonga's book makes it clear that the meeting was held at the request of the English players who were in a dilemma as to whether they should play in Zimbabwe or not.

"I was asked for my view and said that they should travel.

"Fourthly, I do not dispute what Andy Flower said on the BBC - where did that come from? I have never made any secret of the role I played then and Andy's comments on the BBC were accurate."

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