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Editor’s Memo

Slow death

Vincent Kahiya

WRITING in a South African on-line edition in June, Ian McDonald had this to say about the quota system in sport: “Affirmative a

ction in the workplace and team quotas on the sports field are short-term solutions to a long-term challenge. It attempts to address imbalances today, with debatable effectiveness. A longer term, sustainable solution is the equal provision of education, opportunities and resources to all South Africans.

“This is what is happening at our schools and sports academies. Today, young South Africans are emerging, multi-racial and equal, and they are taking their rightful places in South African society. Today, young black sports stars are representing our country in greater numbers. Today, young black skilled professionals are charging up the corporate ladder. Tomorrow, no one will care that they’re black, white, pink or green.”

He was reacting to the young Springboks multiracial side’s winning the junior rugby world cup. His words are instructive in post-apartheid South Africa where the issue of achieving the right racial balance in sport, especially rugby and cricket, has been a subject of emotive debate on either side of the racial divide.

While some of the comments from sports pundits in South Africa have bordered on outright racialism, the crucial endgame has been that the opposing sides both believe that sport should be the winner and the two sports in SA have done just that.

The same cannot be said of Zimbabwe where government is a virtual spectator as sports administrators tear each other apart under the guise of achieving the right racial mix in former minority sports. In fact, what can the government do when it has promoted a violent form of affirmative action as exemplified by the land reform programme?

The inept thinking that affirmative action is achieved by bringing down the privileged to the same platform as the disadvantaged is evident in sport. Then there are the naïve former members of the privileged class who believe it is their right to play and administer the sports to preserve tradition.

Both parties have one thing in common. They are employing a huge amount of energy to destroy sport.

The events in cricket, which I have followed with keen interest and which this paper has written about extensively, are panning out to be a tragedy starring individuals with huge egos. Do I see white administrators who have felt hard done by their loss of grip in the running of the sport and black officials who are keen to make a point that the scales have tilted and “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again”?

In between, there are opportunists who have switched sides with the regularity of a pendulum – all depending on which side is holding sway. I will be exposing this lot soon. More worryingly though is a dangerous lot with an undisguised appetite to want to stir trouble, use violence and pretend to be working with or for government.

In the mid-1990s I watched the same greedy individuals being given a licence by the government to destroy rugby under the guise of achieving the right racial mix.

I recall the days when gullible officials at the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture and the Sports and Recreation Commission would pretend to intervene in the problems bedevilling the sport while at the same time holding secret meetings with individuals who eventually chased away sponsors, good administrators and good players from rugby. They have moulded the sport into what it is today: a caricature of the great team that was a marvel to watch even when being massacred by Griqualand West in the Bankfin Cup.

The rugby tragedy is being replayed in cricket with seemingly the same objective of destroying the sport to achieve political ends. I see the sport failing to recover from the current throes as long as administrators make it as apparent as possible that they do not want to work to achieve peace which is important in improving our now embarrassing record with bat and ball.

The situation in cricket is not going to improve as long as the blame game continues to feature larger than the forlorn Test players who also feature for junior and reserve sides. Convince me that all those billions officials appear to be fighting over have been used for the good of the game!

There is not going to be a breakthrough as long as letters detailing serious allegations against Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka and chief executive Ozias Bvute appear on the cricket websites before their delivery to the local body and International Cricket Council. There is not going to be progress in the game as long as ZC leaders use the race card to skirt problems which must be attended to urgently.

Talking to cricket administrators this week, I picked up unfortunate statements like: “the blacks killed rugby and we (the whites) cannot allow them to kill cricket” and that “whites who lost the land are still bitter and they do not want to let go of cricket”. All this in the name of improving Tawanda Mpariwa’s bowling figures or that Brendan Taylor matures into a reliable opener?

If the administrators genuinely represent the interests of sport, they should begin dialogue aimed at uplifting the game and not the dogfight to prove who is right or wrong. At the moment the feuding parties are all culpable in the slow death of cricket.

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