Yet 53-year-old James, a Bulawayo lawyer and past president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, was thrust in one of the most powerful posts in Zimbabwean sports.
Sports minister David Coltart, who prior to appointing the board constantly stressed his desire to include sportsmen and women of note and not “politician”, announced a nine-member board for the country’s supreme sports regulatory organisation.
Coltart, like James, has a law background and comes from Bulawayo. We put it to James that this might have influenced his ascendancy.
“I don’t think so,” replied James. “There are other lawyers involved in sports both in Bulawayo and Harare that the ministers know and could have appointed. Here in Bulawayo there’s Mr (Tavengwa) Hara and Mr (Nicholas) Matonsi. He did not appoint them.”
James’ CV outlines his sporting credentials as having played Division One football for Bulawayo Wanderers and Thorngroove Football Club, and for Rangers in the South Zone League.
But that is not all, he says.
“I sat on the Zifa disciplinary committee in the 1980s. I was appointed on the executive of Zifa when the entire Zifa executive was suspended in 1987. I’ve been chairman of Amazulu Football Club. Speak to anyone who knows about football in Bulawayo. I’ve been involved in sports my entire life.”
The board looks impressive at face value.
The most experienced member is former Zimbabwe Cricket Union chairman Dave Ellman-Brown, who served the game for more than 40 years and led the country to Test status in 1992.
Obed Moyo is the outgoing president of the Zimbabwe Golfers Association and a previous chairman of Mhangura and Shabanie Football Clubs.
Annah Mguni, a former sports newsreader on TV, had flirtations with rugby, basketball and cricket and has also worked for the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.
Female martial artist Debbie Jeans has 30 years of experience in her field.
Jessie Nyakatawa, the outgoing Zimbabwe Ladies Golfers Union president who still represents Zimbabwe, has been a keen golfer for 15 years.
The other members are paralympic administrator Obediah Moyo, college sports director Eugenia Chidakwa, and experienced athletics personality Edward Siwela.
“The minister did an excellent job,” James said of his board. “The board members are in my opinion competent people. Talk about cricket and Dave, they are almost synonymous. Look at Mr Dube in golf and soccer. Mr Moyo has been involved in sports for the disabled for years. We’ve got an excellent balance. These are experienced people. They are qualified.”
Constitutional amendments for sports associations is an issue James consider paramount in his tenure.
“The starting point is to have sound administration,” he said. “And you cannot have sound administration without good constitutions which are followed. If you don’t have sound administration and sound constitutions then you have a big problem. Constitutions make people accountable. If we rectify that everything will fall in place. With that level of accountability you get mutual respect between administrators and people who participate in sports. We need sound administrators who will make parents encourage kids to take up sports as an occupation rather than simply a hobby. “Firstly I will speak to the (SRC) director-general (Charles Nhemachena). I got to look at the constitutions of various associations, probably starting with the bigger ones. I will use my legal background and consult and see where we can improve.”
James’ board comes into office at a time sports in Zimbabwe is failing to fulfil its fullest potential. Introducing the new board on Monday, Coltart said the country’s targets in major disciplines should be qualification for the 2014 football World Cup, regaining Test status in cricket and getting a Zimbabwe rugby side in the prestigious Super 14 competition.
“I know we lack resources but I’m sure some of these things can possibly be overcome if people follow constitutions,” said James.
“The situation could certainly be better. Clearly things are not what they should be. I hope the board can add value and improve things. If we carry out our mandate in terms of the Act we will do well.”
With most national associations constantly making the headlines for the wrong reasons, should the general public expect the new SRC to ready the riot act?
“That’s not my approach,” said James. “My attitude with a legal background is that people must follow rules and regulations. If a term expires you must step down. If you want to seek re-election do it procedurally. If there has been corruption let people who are qualified investigate. Let them do their job. It’s not a question of being hard. That’s not my approach. We are not policemen.”