WITH opinion deeply divided over the legacy of Peter Chingoka following his death last week, Stephen Mangongo — one of Zimbabwean cricket’s foremost personalities — has waded into the debate and insisted that the late pioneer black administrator was a well-intentioned figure whose reputation was ruined by others.
By Enock Muchinjo
Chingoka took over as president of Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) in 1992 with the game riding a wave of growth and stability following the attainment of Test status that year. He initially steered the game through a purple patch up until the early 2000s, but a series of controversial events thereafter saw to it that Chingoka’s service to the game was somewhat chequered by the time he retired in 2014.
But Mangongo, who had known Chingoka for 32 years, said the long-serving ZC chairman, who died in Harare last Thursday aged 65, had the unenviable knack of having his intentions not fully trusted.
“He was a misunderstood man,” Mangongo told IndependentSport this week.
“He handled the treacherous transition from white-dominance of cricket to a mass sport to be enjoyed by Zimbabweans of all races.”
Associates met later in life were eventually the downfall of Chingoka, opined former Zimbabwe coach Mangongo.
“It’s so sad that those who took over after him were and are simple vultures devouring Peter Chingoka’s legacy.
Yes, we are all not infallible as humans. However, the good outweighed the bad when Peter was at the helm, steading the turbulence. Dishonesty has become the nature of Zimbabwe Cricket. Cricket has gone from one extreme to another, from a white man’s privilege to now a captured sport by a non-cricketing black leadership.”
Chingoka, who played club and List A cricket in his young days thanks to a privileged family background, was for a lengthy period the only black person in the governance of the game in Zimbabwe, and then oversaw transformation from white control to a black-dominated administration in later years. This, according to Mangongo, was a matter of much difficulty for Chingoka because it sharply split him between the two main races in the game.
“Peter was and is accused by both races, blacks and whites,” Mangongo said.
“Whites at some point thought Peter was their front man to be used to keep cricket within their control. However, Peter outsmarted all to bring blacks through. However, it’s ironic that the same blacks accused him of being an Uncle Tom. Without Peter and (former ZC vice-chairperson) Justice Ahmed Ebrahim, the once revered Takashinga project would have suffered a stillbirth. The biggest funders of Takashinga Cricket Club were ZC, who built the club house. Credit to mukoma (brother) Peter and Justice Ebrahim.”
Mangongo himself once fell out dramatically with the Chingoka-led board over administrative issues, although the development stalwart insists the row was purely on professional grounds.
“We had utmost respect for each other as professional and passionate people,” he said. “Yes, we had divergent views on the route the game was taking, but strangely never with the individual Peter. I’m one who wears his heart on the sleeve therefore I’m never shy to state my point of view candidly and I don’t apologise for that. It allows people to introspect. I have differed with people in the cricket establishment, but never with mukoma (brother) Peter.
Mukoma (brother) was a cricket encyclopaedia in fact. He would say ‘okay, I’ve understood, but look at this viewpoint’. And for sure I would see merits in his arguments. So how could I win intelligent, hot discussions with an encyclopaedia on cricket matters like mukoma (brother) Peter? Those with genuine love and interest for cricket in Zimbabwe are now poorer without his cricket wisdom.”
Mangongo — who groomed quite a number of Zimbabwe’s black cricketers such as Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Vusi Sibanda, Elton Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya — was a young grassroots coach in the Highfield and Glen Norah areas of Harare when he first met the late Chingoka over three decades ago.
It marked the beginning of a long association for two of Zimbabwe’s most recognised cricket figures.
“I first met him when Young West Indies toured Zimbabwe in 1987,” Mangongo said.
“Two of the Young West Indies players, Phil Simmons (later to coach Zimbabwe) and Tony Gray, visited Chengu Primary School in Highfield for a coaching session to see the progress being made in black cricket development. Peter led the delegation of these budding West Indians. Peter in his unassuming but very reassuring way said ‘boys, continue to play.’ Then in 1989 at the Zim Schools trials at Peterhouse College I had the opportunity to really get inspired by him. He took time to engage the few black boys who were at the trials. I remember him passing few tips about hitting length and letting the batsman come after you. As I got into coaching, I got to know that Peter indeed wanted cricket to grow.
“He had to manage white conservatives at board level, while encouraging us at development level to excel. When the ZC-sponsored development programme at Chipembere (Primary School) started getting serious reviews and results of young talented boys like (Tatenda) Taibu spread, Chingoka remained calm. He did a lot behind the scenes. The Chipembere project was well-supported by hiring buses to carry the youngsters twice a week so that we could train at Harare Sports Club’s grass nets. Quality equipment began to flow to Chipembere.”
Bulawayo-born Chingoka was buried at Glen Forest Cemetery in Harare on Monday with a wide cross-section of society in attendance.