HomeSportExtortion charges hit cricket

Extortion charges hit cricket

Darlington Majonga

THREE cricket administrators including a Zimbabwe national selector have been accused of demanding money from players at their club, ostensibly to influence their selection in national and

provincial teams.

Letters written by disgruntled players to Zimbabwe Cricket and national team coach Phil Simmons — seen by the Independent — allege that the Takashinga executive was forcing them to remit 10% of their match fees for the development of the high-density club.

But Mashonaland Cricket Association general manager Givemore Makoni and his subordinate Elvis Sembezeya, as well as national team selector Stephen Mangongo argue that there is nothing wrong with the mandatory tithe expected from all Takashinga players who make it into all national teams from Under-14 upwards.

Mangongo is chairman of Takashinga, Makoni club secretary and Sembezeya the manager.

Zimbabwe Cricket refused to comment on the issue, but the union has been blamed for not protecting the young cricketers.

Insiders claim one player has been threatened with death for challenging the alleged extortion, while national team skipper Tatenda Taibu was forced to quit Takashinga in a huff last month because he said he could not take it anymore.

Sembezeya on June 22 wrote a memorandum to all Takashinga players advising them of the new policy. Part of the letter, seen by the Independent, reads:

“Please note that at an executive meeting on June 21 2004, it was decided that all Takashinga players who have played cricket at the highest level, ie national team, Zimbabwe A and U-19, must pay 10% of their match fees to the club. This is with effect from the just-ended Sri Lanka tour 2004.”

National team players are believed to be getting about $10 million match fees for one-day internationals, while those in the Zimbabwe A side are paid around $2 million. For the provincial Logan Cup players are guaranteed around $1,5 million, while for the Faith Wear limited-overs series, they get about $1 million.

Takashinga has been providing the core of all national representative sides following a standoff between Zimbabwe Cricket and 15 white players who walked out on national duty. The Highfield club currently has six players in the national team, five in the Zimbabwe A team and 21 are involved in the provincial teams.

However, the Takashinga executive claimed no player had remitted their tithes so far.

A representative of the aggrieved Takashinga players, who claims the players almost rebelled against the club over the tithe, said they were intimidated not to leave the club and threatened that Mangongo would “penalise” them when it comes to selection.

“Yes, we have nothing to hide. We’ve asked all players to make a contribution towards the development of the club and there’s nothing sinister about that,” Mangongo told IndependentSport yesterday.

A Zimbabwe Cricket official however insisted the mother body bankrolled all development and day-to-day costs of running the club, which had “prompted the players to query why they were being asked to pay the 10%”.

“No. It’s weird for Zimbabwe Cricket or anyone to claim that. Takashinga is a self-sustaining club like all others and we’re glad we came up with an idea to fund the club,” Mangongo said.

“After all the fund is run by the players themselves and the committee is chaired by Alester Maregwede. So no one should fear that we may divert the money to our own pockets,” Makoni added.

Taibu and his national teammate Stuart Matsikinyire were last year asked to “donate” almost $5 million each from their World Cup 2003 proceeds to Takashinga on the pretext that the money would be channelled towards the development of the club.

The players were allegedly threatened and told to “shut up” when they asked the club officials to account for the way they had used the “donations”, highly placed sources said.

“When we set our policies at Takashinga, anyone who is not happy can leave. Let me emphasise that we are strict on discipline at our club,” Sembezeya said yesterday, also admitting that some players had expressed unhappiness over the tithe policy.

Mangongo said all the Takashinga players who participated in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh this year were asked to pool together some of the money to buy bats for the club, a policy he says has been in force since 1995.

Elton Chigumbura, Tinashe Panyangara, Prosper Utseya, Tinashe Ruswa and Tafadzwa Mufambisi — who now turns out for Universals — are the Takashinga players who represented Zimbabwe at the Under-19 World Cup.

Other Takashinga players who could have been victims of the alleged extortion are Vusumuzi Sibanda, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Bernard Mlambo, Amos Maungwa and Rangarirai Manyande.

Zimbabwe Cricket refused to renew Sembezeya’s contract as Zimbabwe “A” and Mashonaland manager “after getting wind of the extortion”, the sources said. However, Sembezeya is allegedly refusing to hand back Zimbabwe Cricket property in his possession, including a car.

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