Harsh life lessons for Zim cricketers

ZIMBABWE international cricketer Timycen Maruma last week countered sexual assault allegations by telling a court through his lawyers that he in fact had consensual sex with his accuser, a 22-year-old Harare woman, adding that it was not possible for him to force himself on her since the two had been involved in some kind of love affair.

Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo

Assuming that Maruma is indeed being falsely accused after taking a closer look at the matter—and I mean no disregard here to the due process of law—the case should not waste so much of the court’s time.

Taking a further look, the young woman’s story does appear to have deep holes and missing evidence. The alleged offence happened on December 26 in Maruma’s car after a night out and only reported on February 5, while evidence provided to the court reveals a romantic relationship that turned sour.

If you also put into consideration that Maruma is 31, in the prime of his life, some adult delinquency in nightclub car-park could be seen as one of those things people of his age do in a moment of weakness.

But wait, there is actually a big problem here: Maruma is not just another 31-year-old enjoying life in the prime of his youth. He is a married father of one, which makes matters much more complicated than we thought.

So in trying to get out of trouble with the law, Maruma has caused potential marriage problems by admitting to an adulterous affair which could have a nasty turn if his accuser insists she was raped by the Zimbabwe all-rounder.

Worse, Maruma says his accuser—driven by malice—became “jealous” after seeing him “dropping off other girls.”

Other girls, not even his wife!

That the alleged sexual offence took place outside a popular night spot in Highfield, a township where Maruma is a local sporting hero because he comes from there, is also something of major concern because the famed Harare high-density suburb has produced many role models in this sport so the need for cricket to maintain a good name over there cannot be over-emphasised.

Maruma, though, is not the first Zimbabwean cricketer to make headlines for all the wrong reasons in more recent times.

The name that immediately comes to mind is of course Dumisani Mankunzini, the former lowly domestic cricketer from Zimbabwe who has gained notoriety within and beyond our borders for fraud-related activities that have attracted the interest of South Africa’s biggest news organisations.

Mankunzini operates at a much different level, though, and it is probably unfair to put others in the same bracket as his.

But it is no less worrying.

Tarisai Mukasanda, whose leadership qualities were once hailed by many so much that they tipped him to be a future Zimbabwe captain, was in January sacked by his Australian club, New City, after he was convicted of a drink-driving offence.

An older Zimbabwean cricketer who has played and coached in Australia for much longer told me that while he felt terribly sorry for his younger compatriot, he was shocked that even in naivety of young age, the 25-year-old Musakanda had gone behind the wheel whilst under the influence in, of all places New South Wales—an Australian state with zero-tolerance laws on drink-driving due to its very high road deaths statistics.

Lack of proper grooming for Zimbabwe’s cricketers? It certainly points to this.

Gifted batsman Musakanda—with his 15 ODIs, a single Test and six Twenty20 internationals—is the highest-profile player that the modest New South Wales club has ever signed. They were really chuffed to have the affable young Zimbabwean star over there.

But New City had to enforce a strict local government by-law and, regrettably, Musakanda paid the price for his unfortunate error of judgment.

Musakanda is young, talented and looks like he has both feet firmly on the ground. Well, if he curbs his wilder ways, of course.

Maruma is older and presumably much stronger mentally. Let the law take its course.

But at the end of it all, it should not be about Maruma alone, or Musakanda alone. It is an opportunity for some serious soul-searching by all our cricketers and their handlers, before “the gentleman’s game” acquires an unsavoury reputation in this country.

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