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SPORT has historically been overlooked by central government in Zimbabwe. While most countries have standalone sports ministries, in this country, it has always been merged with other departments of government.

Even the formation of the inclusive government in Zimbabwe exactly a year ago failed to address this anomaly with sports being made to jostle for attention with education, arts and culture.
Thankfully, the sports side of the ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture benefited indirectly by getting a minister who knows his stuff insofar as as sport is concerned.
A sportsman of sorts himself, David Coltart outlined an impressive vision for Zim sports in his first interview with this newspaper soon after his appointment.
To an extent, the effect of the GNU has been felt in local sport.
Few months after assuming office, Coltart appointed a new board for the Sports and Recreation Commission. The SRC is the supreme-regulatory body for sports in Zimbabwe.
Introducing the new board, chaired by keen sports follower and Bulawayo lawyer Joseph James, Coltart told the media that government would now get more involved in regulating  sports, through the SRC.
Up until the appointment of the new administration, the SRC had become utterly ineffective; ignoring the worst excesses of sports associations they are supposed to regulate either because the board itself was embedded, uninterested or just didn’t take its work seriously. 
The previous SRC board’s record with Zimbabwean football is one of its greatest failures. All incoming and outgoing sports tours in Zimbabwe are supposed to be sanctioned by the SRC.
How Zifa were able to send the national team on frequent controversial trips to southeast Asia, where the hurriedly-assembled side got bashed by near minnows of world football, remain to this day a mystery. 
Now, the new board is determined to put Zifa on a leash. Last week the top brass of the SRC summoned the Zifa board to a meeting in Bulawayo.
Such pressing matters as the Asian tours were deliberated, with Zifa being sternly warned against its wayward actions.
As the SRC firms its hand, the two
sides seemed headed for a showdown in the last two weeks with Zifa insisting that its 2008 constitution, approved by Fifa, will be used for the forthcoming Zifa elections. The constitution had however not been registered by SRC.
One area of special interest to the inclusive government, through Coltart, is cricket.
Coltart publicly declared to clean up the mess in the game after five years of turmoil.
But ZC were not prepared to sit and wait for the government to come and investigate. Some critics have dubbed it window-dressing, but call it what you want, some positives have taken place over the last months.
A new, professionalised domestic structure commended by no less than some of ZC’s fiercest critics, a reconciliation exercise that has seen the return of exiled players and officials and the coming in of overseas professionals to boost the domestic game; have all combined to give the game here a new sense of positive spirit that has given hope for revival.
While things cannot be said to be all rosy now at 45 Maiden Drive, and the greater goal of a Test return is not yet sealed, the new political dispensation can claim indirect credit for the local game’s mini-recovery.
Only last week, the re-launch of the Zimbabwe Open golf tournament — once one of the most prestigious events on the local sporting calendar — took place in Harare.
The Zim Open attracts a host of local and international professional golfers.
The return of the open would not have been possible had it not been for the gradual stabilisation of the economy under the inclusive government.
As the political sides continue negotiating outstanding issues in their unity deal, Zim sports can hold its breath — hoping that the gains gotten so far won’t be disturbed by the same politicians who have overlooked them for years.

 

Enock Muchinjo

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