Zimbabwe: Taibu Shoots From the Hip

Tatenda Taibu (file photo).

Former Zimbabwe captain Tatenda Taibu has finally spoken out against the decision by his ex-teammates, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, to wear black armbands, during the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup, and has also revealed the Chevrons used to be rocked by serious racial divisions during his time in the team.

Racism was also rife in their camp and, ironically, some of the administrators who were in charge during that dark period have been brought back, as part of the interim management set up by the Sports Commission, to take charge of the game in the wake of the suspension of the Zimbabwe Cricket board.

Flower, who contributed the foreword to Taibu's autobiography, "Keeper of Faith, Conflict and God In Zimbabwe's Age of Extremes", conceded many established white players resented the rise of their black counterparts into the team during that period.

The black armband incident, which attracted global attention, remains one of the most controversial moments on a Zimbabwean sporting field and virtually ended the playing careers of the duo with Flower moving to England while Olonga settled in Australia.

Although the duo has been praised in some circles for "their brave" stance, Taibu -- who became the youngest Zimbabwe cricket team skipper at the age of 20 -- has chosen a different path and said he doesn't believe in what his former teammates did.

The autobiography is set to be released at Liverpool's Formby Hall Golf Resort and Spar in England tomorrow night.

The book, which was written by British biographer, Jack Gordon Brown, and published by deCoubertin Books, takes readers from Taibu's humble upbringing in Harare's high-density suburb of Highfield and his rise to become the youngest captain in the history of Test cricket at the age of 20.

The 268-page book follows the publication of Japhet Mparutsa's "My Story", Bruce Grobbelaar's "Life In a Jungle" and Memory Mucherahowa's "Soul of Seven Million Dreams".

It also reveals the racism and backstabbing in the national cricket side.

The book also brings to the fore how the underlying political tensions, during Zimbabwe's land reform programme, affected the team along racial lines.

Taibu uses it to express his displeasure that former Zimbabwe captain Flower and Olonga staged their black armband demonstration on the eve of Zimbabwe's World Cup opening match against Namibia in 2003 at Harare Sports Club.

"Andy thought differently, and I fully understand his viewpoint that sport and politics are interlinked, especially after my experiences.

"But I still maintain that he and Henry should not have done it. African politics has its own rules and what they did wasn't going to change that fact --with all the best intentions, I am not sure how it would have changed the political landscape -- so, I think, they should have just left it.

"If they wanted to make a point about politics, they could have made it any stage in the previous three years. They could have just come out and said it, nothing was stopping them.

"Instead they waited to the eve of our first World Cup game in our own country," wrote Taibu.

Writing the Foreword, Flower acknowledged the existence of racism in Zimbabwean cricket.

"The recommended quota system from the ZCU (now Zimbabwe Cricket) was introduced for good reason: promoting black participation and providing opportunities that had previously been denied young black talent.

"We were already a small cricketing nation constantly fighting to justify our international status, and as established players we believed this quota system would serve to weaken us further.

"We had just started to receive a fair amount of money from our board, and places in the team were highly sought after. In truth, a number of the players resented some of the young black cricketers being promoted.

"Looking back, I wish I had been wiser in the way I responded. I think that Graeme Smith and the people around him handled a similar situation in South Africa with more wisdom and with a better understanding of the bigger picture.

"It must have been difficult for youngsters such as Tatenda and his friends Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, and Vusi Sibanda, but I think they handled themselves extremely well," wrote Flower.

Taibu said racial tensions were always high in the team. He cited an incident which upset almost everyone in camp.

"Mluleki Nkala, who I had roomed with on the tour, had several nicknames in the dressing room, one of which was "Nugget," which was a type of shoe polish in Zimbabwe.

"Mluleki was given this nickname because of his dark skin colour. It's not something that he seemed uneasy about, he was called it every day and it wasn't just white players that used this nickname.

"On this particular occasion it was Neil Johnson, who Mluleki was particularly close to, that used this nickname, and for some reason, it seemed to spark something inside Mluleki. He was raging "Take your words back," He said to Neil.

"'You are overreacting Henry,' said Neil and Murray Goodwin came over and said a similar thing. Neil asked Mluleki if he minded the term, before Mluleki released the bombshell: "That's why Mugabe is taking your farms off you." All hell broke loose," wrote Taibu.

Asked what influenced him to write the book, Taibu said the idea came following a discussion with his wife Loveness.

"I was sitting in the lounge with my wife in 2015 when we had just moved to Bulawayo and we were talking about someone who had just made his debut and she asked me how my debut was like.

"When I started narrating how my debut was like she got emotional and she said how come you never told me like this in detail. I told her that I like focusing on a solution rather than what happened... She said you have never told the world about your inner life." Urging other Zimbabwean sports personalities to write their stories, Taibu revealed that he was in contact with a local bookshop in Harare so that the book would be easily accessible to Zimbabweans.

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