By Sikhumbuzo Moyo
Former Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart has challenged the Sports and Recreation Commission to suspend the Zimbabwe Cricket Board following what he said was a shocking decision to fire the Chevrons’ coaching personnel.
In an emotionally-charged 3 000-word statement released yesterday, Coltart said the ZC sacrificed Heath Streak and Tatenda Taibu when the reality on the ground pointed to their monumental failure as the administrators of the game.
He described the decision to fire the coaching staff “as the most absurd and damaging decisions made by any sports body ever in Zimbabwe’s history”. The SRC, said Coltart, should suspend the ZC board in terms of the SRC Act Chapter 25:15.
“I applauded the Zimbabwe Cricket Board when they appointed Taibu and Streak as Convenor of Selectors and head coach respectively. I do not think that it has been any coincidence that the performance of the national side has steadily improved since their appointment. Despite some periodic setbacks, the general improvement in the side was apparent to all cricket loving Zimbabweans — something attested to by the fact that Zimbabwean fans returned in great numbers to support a passionate national side in the recent World Cup qualifiers,” said Coltart.
He said like some Zimbabweans he was devastated by the failure to qualify for the World Cup, but he did not blame the players, coaching staff and selectors, as he saw other factors at play, particularly the “appalling” decision by the ICC to limit the World Cup to 10 teams.
“Although I realised that the failure to qualify would place enormous financial strain on Zimbabwe Cricket, I remained confident because of the belief that, unlike 2004 when we lost all our experience, we now had a magnificent foundation to build on.
We had a great pool of experienced players, some exciting youngsters coming through, a resurgence of fan interest and a coaching and selection team which enjoyed the confidence of the players. It was in that context that I was almost numbed by disbelief when I heard that the ZC board had resolved to fire the entire coaching staff and the selectors.
It is one of the most absurd and damaging decisions made by any sports body ever in Zimbabwe’s history. It seems to me that the decision has been made for reasons completely disassociated from the interests of the game and rather from the personal interests of a few to scapegoat the coaching staff and selectors to divert attention away from the grievous mismanagement of ZC by its Board.I believe that the ZC Board should be suspended by the SRC in terms of section 30(c)(i) of the SRC Act (Chapter 25:15) for ‘conducting itself in a manner which is contrary to the national interest’”, wrote Coltart.
The former Minister listed the reasons for the suspension of the ZC Board as; Failure to represent Zimbabwe’s interests before the ICC, failure to ensure that the World Cup qualifier would be organised more efficiently and in accordance with international standards and gross mismanagement of the financial and administrative affairs of Zimbabwe Cricket.
He added that none of the Zimbabwe Cricket Board members have played first class cricket, the Board does not enjoy the support of sponsors and that the system of election to the board is “opaque” and excludes minorities and the decision of the board to sack Streak and Taibu may irreparably damage cricket in Zimbabwe.
“A little known fact is that on the 27th February 2018, just 5 days before Zimbabwe’s opening match against Nepal, Zimbabwe Cricket’s Head of Human Resources Nesta Vaki wrote to all staff, including the players to announce that due to ‘ongoing cash flow challenges’ staff, including players, would only be paid 40 percent of their net salaries. A copy of that letter is attached on my Facebook profile.
On receipt of this news, Streak, convinced that it would undermine the morale of his players, urgently discussed the matter with the Zimbabwe Cricket and the chairman. Streak advised that he was prepared to take the cut himself but insisted that the players be paid. Eventually the Board relented and the players were paid. Streak, however, was only paid 40 percent of his salary.
When the ICC personnel released daily allowances in new $100 bills cash to all the sides who qualified for the Super 6 round, the Zimbabwe team received their allowances by means of RTGs bank transfers into their bank accounts. When the players realised that all the other teams had been paid in $100 bills they protested. ZC responded by paying them $450 each in old tatty $5 bills.
When some senior players and staff questioned this with ZC authorities they said the cash crisis was to blame, without explaining what had happened to the original $100 bills paid to Zimbabwe Cricket by the ICC.
It seems clear that the Zimbabwe Cricket management retained the new $100 bills for themselves unlike the other teams who respected their players. This affected the morale of the team when they realised how they were treated in comparison to the other teams by their own Board,” said Coltart.
According to Coltart, the Zimbabwe team ran short of cricket balls to train with during the qualifiers and the coaching staff had to borrow balls from Ben Lever of the ICC to see them through.
“What is not in the public domain is the fact that the entire national team opposes the decision taken by the Board. I have it on exceptionally good and reliable authority that the team is appalled by this decision. We are now in grave danger not only of undermining the morale of the current crop of players but also of losing some of our key players.
If this decision results in a similar loss of experience as happened in 2004 Zimbabwe cricket may never recover and we may go the same way Kenya went and become just another second-class cricketing nation.
The resultant loss of income, national profile and national pride will be completely against our national interest. Conversely if cricket grows as it should it will be the source of foreign exchange and a livelihood for thousands in the years to come. Our economy cannot afford the collapse of yet another once vibrant sector,” said Coltart. The Chronicle