ZIMBABWEAN sports personalities have expressed mixed views over the power-sharing political deal signed by the countryâ€™s political leaders in its relation to sports development.
Under the agreement sports will fall under the Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture, a far cry from modern worldwide trends where sports is considered important enough to be represented by a separate ministry.
In most countries, the sports minister is himself a distinguished sports personality â€“â€“ in most cases â€“â€“ a former sportsperson. Or if he is an elected politician, he or she will be at least someone with a known track-record in sports.
While admitting that separating sports was not easy in a smaller cabinet compared to the previous ones, Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) chief executive Robert Mutsauki still advocated for a stand-alone ministry of sports.
“Previously we had more ministries and one should appreciate the difficult situation,” Mutsauki said.
“But I look forward to the day when sports become a stand-alone ministry. Sports is supposed to be the fastest growing industry but this can only happen when itâ€™s separated from other areas. If sports is separated, it will create opportunities for the industry. The focus and effectiveness will be greater.”
Mutsauki added: “Now in this ministry, sports has to compete for resources with other sectors like education and culture. Sports is a proven source of employment, good healthy-living and foreign currency generation. All these are arguments for sports being a stand-alone portfolio.
“But one of the problems is that as sports practitioners we have tended to sit back. The positive attitude would have been to lobby. Why canâ€™t we lobby as the sports fraternity, not to sit back and complain afterwards? A record-breaking local athlete who declined to be named feared a repeat of the past where the minister will be an education and culture-oriented person as was case with Aenias Chigwedere, the outgoing minister.
“We probably are going to get a minister who doesnâ€™t even know the rules of some of the major sporting disciplines in the country, someone who thinks his role is to read speeches at sports functions or accompany the team to the All-Africa Games or Olympics when he has done nothing in the build up to the games.”
Anthony Mandiwanza, a former chairman of the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), said a revitalisation of the commission would have greater effect than forming a new ministry.
He said: “There is need for a clear policy and vision for sports development. We have to look at areas like grassroots sports, development, excellence and a vision where you say what do you want to achieve? You must then begin to allocate resources either through the ministry or a department within a ministry.
“When I was chairman of SRC, we developed a strategic plan for sports in which we canvassed the generality of sports. What was a problem was the allocation of resources. We (Zimbabwe) probably have the lowest grant per capita when it comes to sports,” he said.
“There is absolutely nothing coming into sports from government. We are very good at schools sports but there is nothing later to harness that talent. The problem is not the ministry, but the centre to maintain that input, performance and outcome.”
Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, a former vice-chairman for the SRC and golf administrator, said the sporting fraternity must “forget government” and develop sports on its own as it has done in the past. This approach, he says, saw Zimbabwe producing a world-class Davis Cup tennis team on the back of one family, the Blacks, and world-class golfers from a small playing committee.
A former tennis player and keen golfer himself, Masunda said the SRC needs to get its act together to revitalise sports as it is the de facto ministry of sports.
“The SRC was formed as an independent body to run sports in this country. But what happened was that the commission had to report to the ministry, and over time that autonomy was eroded because after the inaugural commission, where I was vice-chairman and Alywn Pichanick was chairman, the subsequent chairmen tended to be appointments, and these guys tended to lean on what was expected of them by those who put them there. Our commission was made up of people with proven track-record in sports. So the SRC needs to go back to its objectives when it was formed in 1991.”
Masunda also called for more involvement and ingenuity by the sporting community itself: “Harare metropolitan has a championship golf course 30 radius of the city. You will not find that in any city in the world. These are run by members. Government is not involved. When I was captain at Royal Harare we produced young brilliant golfers and we still do. Itâ€™s evident of what can happen if the consumers and users of facilities are allowed to pick the ball and run with it. ]
“For example I can tell you that the Triathlon Association of Zimbabwe has asked City of Harare if it is possible for them to own the Mt Pleasant Swimming Pool. We are obviously taking that with a positive attitude.”
By Enock Muchinjo