TRIBUTES poured in last night from friends and colleagues following the death yesterday morning of former Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) chairman Peter Chingoka aged 65.
By Enock Muchinjo
Chingoka, the earliest black person to hold a top position in the sport, passed away at a private hospital in Harare after what a family spokesman said was a short illness.
Many will remember Chingoka as head of one of Zimbabwe’s biggest sporting disciplines, cricket, between 1992 and 2014.
His history in the sport, though, runs much deeper.
After first learning cricket as a young boy in his birthplace, Bulawayo, Chingoka would sharpen his skills in the sport at St George’s College in Harare, a former all-white private school.
Entry was much easier for him at the prestigious school due to the well-respected position of his father, Douglas Chingoka Sr, who was a top-ranking officer in the Rhodesian police department.
Peter Chingoka chiefly excelled in cricket, rugby and tennis.
It was cricket that he would pursue as a young adult and then as a career administrator until retirement in 2014.
He attained his highest level as a player in the 1970s when the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCB) selected him for a black outfit, South Africa African XI, which Chingoka had the privilege of captaining over two seasons in 1975-76 and 1976-77.
Back home, he played club cricket and league tennis for the Asian-dominated Universals Club. Chingoka was appointed president of the then ZCU in 1992 just a few months after Zimbabwe gained Test status, taking over from Dave Ellman-Brown.
Ozias Bvute, later to work closely with Chingoka as ZC’s managing director, spoke glowingly yesterday of his colleague’s gentlemanly demeanour and composure even in testing times.
“I’m deeply saddened to hear that my dear and trusted friend of many years, Peter Chingoka, has passed away in the early hours of Thursday morning,” Bvute told independentsport.
“His remarkable composure, wisdom and gentle manner stood out to all who encountered him. As both my friend and my chairman, I would seek out his sober and objective counsel on many occasions, always given while holding his trademark cigarette in his left hand.”
Bvute described his last moment with Chingoka, who had been hospitalised at a luxurious retirement home in the capital city.
“I was with him a few weeks ago in his hospital room and I remember desperately trying to change the TV channel to enable him to watch his beloved game of cricket. Little did I know that would be the last we would watch together. Despite his discomfort, he was, as always, warm and humorous and it is this consistency of character that stood out to me. Although we spoke at length, mukoma (older brother) was a thoughtful speaker, a man of very few words who made sure that every single word meant something. One thing he would often say to me was ‘mukoma, they will land a few good blows on us, but we will put in a few as well, and it will soon be over’. He called me mukoma despite the fact that I was many years younger than him. And how true of all that is life. I’m comforted knowing that his legacy was one of survival and tenacity and he will remain an icon not only to me, but many Zimbabweans, young and old, striving to make a difference.”
Long-time acquaintance Nick Chouhan, who served on the ZC board chaired by Chingoka, said his death was a shock to him.
“I knew Peter for over 50 years, as a cricketer and tennis player,” Chouhan said.
“He played competitive league tennis and later in the years he played socially every Sunday morning, with his brothers Paul and Patrick alongside Much Masunda and a few others at Don Black’s grass courts. I had the pleasure of serving under his chairmanship between 2003 and 2006.
“He was a passionate cricketer and the highlight of his tenure was probably being instrumental in integrating cricket at all levels. This was a tall order at the time and through his initiative an American consultant by the name of Dr Zacrisson was engaged and worked with a committee of which I was a member. We worked tirelessly for over three months and came up with a document to integrate Zimbabwean cricket over a period of five years. This would be through all age groups, provincial and national cricket administration, crowd participation, women’s cricket and all. He will be sorely missed. Condolences to his wife Shirley and the family.”
Born Peter Farai Chingoka in Bulawayo on March 2 in 1954, Chingoka grew up in a sporting family, heavily supported by their father, one of Zimbabwe’s deputy police commissioners at Independence in 1980.
Another close friend of many years, former Harare mayor Masunda, chronicled the two’s upbringing in Zimbabwe’s second largest city.
“Peter and I had the good fortune of being born and brought up during our formative years in Bulawayo where the seeds of our enduring passion for a variety of ball games were sown at Entembeni and Mthwakazi Boys’ Clubs respectively,” said Masunda.
“We were beneficiaries of the visionary leadership of Dr Edmund Hugh Ashton, the Bulawayo City Council’s legendary Director of the Housing and Community Services Department. Dr Ashton was an Oxford University-trained anthropologist who made sure that, in each and every high-density suburb, there were clubs for boys and girls where we were given opportunities to be the best that we could be in diverse sporting disciplines, as well as in arts and cultural activities. These clubs were generously funded through profits generated from a thriving business of opaque beer which was brewed by the Bulawayo City Council’s commercially and professionally-run Ingwebu Breweries and sold in beer gardens throughout the city’s high-density suburbs.
“It did not therefore come as a surprise that Peter quickly became quite an accomplished all-rounder who punched well above his weight in cricket, tennis, soccer, rugby and golf. He covered himself in glory in cricket and rugby at St George’s College in Salisbury. He made history by captaining a number of international representative cricket teams which participated in exhibition matches in South Africa at the height of the apartheid era during the mid-1970s.”
His older brother Paul Chingoka, who served as president of Zimbabwe’s tennis association and then later headed the national Olympic committee, died last year.
Their sister Patricia Kambarami is also a sports administrator of note. She is former CEO of South African cricket franchise Titans and currently works as International Cricket Council (ICC) Regional Development Manager for Africa.
Chingoka was married to former beauty queen Shirley Richard Nyanyiwa, who was crowned Miss Zimbabwe in 1980 and represented the country at the Miss World pageant in London that year.
He is survived by her and their two children, Farai and Dambudzo.