ZIMBABWE’S cricketers have finally poured out their hearts and demanded the resignation of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) chairman Peter Chingoka and the immediate suspension of ma
naging director Ozias Bvute.
In a dramatic turn of events yesterday, national team captain Tatenda Taibu addressed a news conference at Harare Sports Club where the players issued a public statement registering their growing insecurity and concerns about the state of the game in the country.
Charlie Robertson, chairman of the Mashonaland Country Districts Cricket Association and leader of the provincial chairmen currently at loggerheads with ZC over several administrative issues, also addressed the gathering.
Taibu said the players were in full support of the provincial chairmen, who last week wrote a dossier to the International Cricket Council (ICC) demanding clarification on the manner in which ZC is running the game.
“We as the players are together,” Taibu said. “They (ZC) want to use it as a racial issue. It’s not. About 90% of the cricketers in this country are black. You are hearing it from the horse’s mouth now, as the captain representing the players. The concerns (by the provincial chairmen) have our full support.”
Asked what sort of action the players would take if their demands were not met, Taibu indicated that the players would have no option but to boycott future assignments.
“The players have stood together in this. And we will always be together. If nothing materialises then I am afraid we won’t play.”
The players’ representative, Clive Field, who also answered questions at the conference, read out a broad statement signed by 35 professional players, most who were present at the news conference.
In the statement, the players had two main concerns listed as “players’ issues” and “governance”. The cricketers cited contentious matters such as player contracts, the funding of the players’ representative and players’ safety after the pitch invasion by Mashonaland officials at a league game at Harare Sports Club in August.
On the governance issues, the statement reads: “We do understand the difference which exists between player issues and governance issues.
“However when we find ourselves, as we do now, directly affected by governance issues which are impacting adversely upon our performance and living, we believe we have not only a right but a duty to speak out.”
The players are also concerned by the exodus of experienced players as a result of the prevailing crisis in the game, financial mismanagement and lack of transparency in the running of the game, as well as the sacking and attempted deportation of former national coach Phil Simmons. They also raised discontent with the “quality and credentials of certain individuals” that have been integrated in the administration of the game.
“We have also read that ZC is now planning to establish a further five provinces, and introduce people into cricket with dubious cricketing credentials.
“How can people such as Mr (Cyprian) Mandenge, Mr (Themba) Mliswa and Dr (Tawengwa) Mukuhlani with their past history be good for the game? How will they portray our nation in good light in world cricket? Specifically, we are concerned by Mr Mliswa, after his involvement with Zimbabwe rugby, when we see where rugby is now.”
In the statement’s closing remark, the players said by making public their demands, they are fully aware that they may be taking a confrontational measure that could backfire on them.
“We realise that by coming forward in this way, we may risk our careers, especially as ZC has shown by its past that it will not hesitate to bully players. But we have no choice but to speak out.
“We continue to play cricket, but are told we have no right to interfere in the administration of the game, even though that is having a marked and direct effect on our ability to perform. How can we sing in tune when our backing band is playing with no harmony?
“We are tired of being threatened by ZC, we are tired of the way ZC has sought to split us and attack us individually. We have lost confidence in the ability of the current incumbent chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, Mr Peter Chingoka, and the MD, Mr Ozias Bvute.”
In a supporting letter to Chingoka attached to the players’ statement, the provincial chairmen dismissed Chingoka’s response to their dossier, saying it was “a disingenuous attempt to create a smokescreen and avoid the issues of concern that we tabled to you on the 28th of October 2005”.
The chairmen further questioned the nature of Chingoka’s post, saying his position as chairman of the board was honorary and must no be a full-time salaried job.
The letter reads: “We are only concerned about the welfare and performance of ZC, and you, as a long-serving member and chairman, should have perceived and addressed these areas of concern long before they reached the point where they are a threat to the very existence of ZC.”
The chairmen said they will convene a board meeting with the “10 legal members of the ZC board” to take appropriate action if the demands were not addressed.
On the abolition of the two country districts associations in Mashonaland and Matabeleland, Robertson said the ZC had no constitutional right to scrap the associations, saying stakeholders would fight any move to do so.
In response to the public statement by the players, Chingoka admitted that the crisis required urgent and full replies, but the “urgent and full replies cannot come unilaterally from me alone. There is need for the ZC board of directors to meet so that we can collectively respond more comprehensively to the queries raised by the Provincial Chairmen’s Association.
“I am sure you will agree with me that the full ZC board is equally responsible for all the successes and/or failures of Zimbabwe Cricket.”
Chingoka dismissed the players’ concerns over the issue of governance, saying it was not their area. He said contract negotiations were still underway.