Coltart responds to racism allegations

HARARE - This week the Director General of the Sports and Recreation Commission Rtd Col. Charles Nhemachena issued SRC directive NSA 1/2013 regarding the appointment of National Selectors.

The directive was issued pursuant to sections 19,21 and 23 of the Sports and Recreation Commission Act.

In terms of section 23 the minister of Sport is given the power to issue general directions to the SRC “as appears requisite.. in the national interest”, subject to the SRC being given 30 days in which to submit its views regarding the proposed directive to the minister.

Last year I exercised these powers for the first time when the SRC issued a directive pursuant to section 23 of the SRC Act ordering all sports associations to equitably rotate international sporting events amongst all Zimbabwe’s sporting venues, which meet international standards, nationwide.

 In the past few years there have been a variety of problems involving the selection of  national sporting teams. Indeed in some disciplines it has been a long standing problem with allegations of bias and incompetence of selectors being made.

For example last year the SRC spent an extraordinary amount of time in seeking to resolve a serious selection dispute in Zimbabwe Bowls regarding the selection of the Zimbabwe team to participate in a World Bowls event in Australia.

Part of that dispute arose because some of Zimbabwe’s bowlers felt that some selectors were unqualified to make the best selection or that there had been interference in the selection process. There have also been selection controversies in some major sports such as Football and Cricket.

Accordingly last year I wrote to the SRC informing it of my proposed direction and seeking its views in terms of the SRC Act.

My thinking was that if the appointment of national selectors was confined to those who had actually played their respective sport at international level it would better ensure that selectors were adequately qualified to do the job, that the appointment of selectors would be done on a more objective basis and that players were more likely to respect decisions taken by people who had already achieved internationally in that discipline.

A wide cross section of Zimbabwean sportspersons have told me in the last few years that playing at international level involves a considerable leap in physical and mental expertise which is best understood and appreciated by sportspersons who have experienced that themselves.

The same sportspersons have advised me that national players are far more likely to respect and accept hard selection decisions made by people who have achieved themselves at the highest level.
The matter was duly considered by the SRC and it concurred with the proposals, and a result the directive was issued by the Director General this week.

I have noted with regret the highly intemperate and defamatory statements issued in response to the directive this week by the erstwhile convener of selectors of Zimbabwe Cricket, Givemore Makoni, claiming, interalia, that the directive has some racist motive.  

Whilst I understand Makoni’s distress at losing his job he would have been better advised to take to a leaf out of Dale Carnegie’s book regarding how to make friends and influence people.

His abusive remarks are not only unnecessary but ironically the remarks themselves bring into question his suitability for holding such an important national position.

I note that Makoni remains manager of the Rocks franchise so his services to cricket will not be lost.

Be that as it may it is necessary for me to respond to the specific allegation that this is some racist plot to prevent black Zimbabweans from advancing in cricket.

Firstly, it is well known that there are numerous black Zimbabweans who have played cricket at international level for Zimbabwe and who have now retired from international cricket, such as David Mutendera, Ethan Dube and Tatenda Taibu, who would make superb selectors.

In this regard I have noted that Makoni is recorded as stating, in his comments carried in the Zimbabwe, Independent newspaper that Ethan Dube did not play for Zimbabwe and is ineligible, which is false as Dube played for Zimbabwe in 1990.

Secondly it is ironic that Makoni refers, in his comments contained in The Herald newspaper, to my criticism regarding selections during the tour to New Zealand without mentioning that those criticisms were mainly focussed on the non selection of a black player Vusimuzi Sibanda, which hardly tallies with some racist agenda.

Thirdly, I note that Makoni suggests that the directive will make Stephen Mangongo ineligible for appointment as national coach (as part of an alleged further racist agenda) which is also false as the directive does not apply to coaches.

Nowhere in the directive does it state that a prerequisite for appointment as a national coach must be international experience.  Only if a coach is to sit on a national selection panel then that person should have international experience, in terms of paragraph 2.2 of the directive.

Historically the practice in Zimbabwe Cricket is that the coach has not been part of the selection panel although the coach’s views are taken into account.

Accordingly these directives do not in any way affect that historical practice. Therefore any suggestions that the directives in general are racist are patently false and nonsensical.

In conclusion it will be apparent that these directives have been lawfully and properly issued by the SRC in the national interest with a view to improve the competitiveness of all our national teams.

Whilst it is regrettable that they inevitably affect some people who do not have international experience it would be improper to allow the personal interests of a few individuals to compromise Zimbabwe’s national interest.

It goes without saying that if National Sports Associations have suggestions to make to improve the directives both I and the SRC will obviously entertain and consider them in the national interest.

What drives us all is the desire to see Zimbabwe retain its status as world beaters in all sporting disciplines something which has been sadly lacking in the last decade.

*Senator David Coltart is minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture.

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