Revise your priorities, Cde Minister!

HARARE – Sports is a specialised area, and as such those appointed to be in charge of sports ministries throughout the world are mostly sportsmen of sorts themselves – whether by previous participation, lifelong interest or perhaps just a deep knowledge of the major sports. 

In an era of late modernity where sport has become an integral and important part of our life in today’s world, I envisage my Sports Minister – because of his or her extensive background in sports – as someone well versed in fundamentals of several sports.

As such, when President Robert Mugabe appointed his new Cabinet, I must confess I wasn’t thoroughly convinced that our new Minister of Sports, Andrew Langa, would fit the bill. So when an invitation was extended to sports editors from the country’s mainstream media to meet the new minister at his offices on Wednesday, I was delighted at this great opportunity, one I hoped would put my scepticism to rest.

Let me hasten to mention that I did not go there with a predetermined conclusion in mind, but midday thorough the meeting, the minister and his deputy Tabeth Kanengoni-Malinga left most of us with no doubt that their priorities were all wrong and in need of rearrangement. 

The ministry has tabled a budget of $46 million (to cover new infrastructure and operational budget) for the African Union Sport Council Region Five Under-20 Youth Games, commonly known as the Zone Youth Games, which Zimbabwe is set to host in December 2014.

Treasury, as per norm, is likely to channel pittance towards mainstream sports when the belated national budget is finally presented.

And you have $46 million for an event no one really cares that much about, a lowly biennial competition with no international appeal whatsoever?!

A whopping $46 million for the Zone Six Games, minister? When the country’s football federation owes its president in excess of $4 million, when the national football team needs to fine-tune for the Chan finals in January, when the county’s number one team, the Warriors, desperately need cash-injection to qualify for the 2015 African Nations Cup finals, when the national football league needs only a fraction of that to become fully professional, when an extremely proud national rugby team has been crying out for the nation’s support in their quest to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in two decades, when cricket is reeling under a huge debt, unable to fulfil international fixtures and even kick-start its own domestic season?

Comrade Minister, the above are the face of our sports, and indeed the face of our nation. This is what people out there see. This is the heartbeat of the nation. And they are crying out for help, oozing potential which just needs a financial boost to burst out on the world stage like a bullet train out of a tunnel and make our great country proud.

Don’t get me wrong, grassroots development is key to achieving our vision of making Zimbabwe the greatest sporting country in Africa, but the different national associations, particularly from the so-called minority sports, already have their own development programmes which have produced results in the past and continue to do so.

The ministry must support these disciplines individually so that they keep up the good work they are already doing.

There are several ways to support growth of sports in the country at grassroots, working hand-in-hand with the associations. Hosting an expensive Zone Six Youth Games is not one of them, certainly less an immediate concern.

My two cents’ worth.

Feedback: muchinjoe@dailynews.co.zw, Tel: +263 4 798820-29.

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