By Nigel Matongorere
The Sables players had to sleep on the streets in Tunisia on Monday night after they refused to put up in a sub-standard hotel and protested non-payment of allowances by the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU).
Zimbabwe is scheduled to take on Tunisia on Saturday in a 2018 Rugby Afrique Gold Cup match at the Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet in Monastir.
The Sables arrived in Tunis straight from Nairobi where they had lost 45-36 to Kenya last weekend, diminishing their chances of qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup finals to be held in Japan.
Upon their arrival in Tunis, the players were detained at the airport because the team manager could not pay the $20 per head for the visa processing fee required by the Tunisian immigration officials.
As a result, the players had to stay at the arrivals terminal for close to six hours while relying on sandwiches and snacks bought by coach, Peter de Villiers.
ZRU in correspondence with their Tunisian counterparts had been made to believe that the Sables delegation will be exempted from paying this visa processing fee.
That was just the start of the players’ horror as they got the shock of their lives when they arrived at the “shoddy” hotel where they were booked to stay by the Tunisians.
According to pictures posted by the players on their Instagram pages, the hotel was “flea”-infested and not suitable accommodation for a visiting national team.
The players refused to take up the accommodation and resorted to sleeping on the streets like vagrants.
Sables loose forward, Takudzwa Mandiwanza, chronicled the team’s torrid time since arriving in North Africa.
“We have not been paid our daily allowances for our duration in Kenya, including our match fees that we did not receive. Now we’re in Tunisia, we were detained at the airport for close to six hours, with no allowances given to us,” Mandiwanza said in a voice note circulating on social media.
“If it wasn’t for the coach buying us sandwiches and a few drinks from his own money, we’d be hungry right now. The situation is very frustrating and disheartening.”
In a stinging post on Twitter, former Sables flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya had no kind words for ZRU.
“Ko nhai @ZimbabweSables what’s the story with the chaos surrounding the team in Tunisia? Surely u can’t say u know nothing, the players need help vachema-chema nezhara, inda, Union yakakorewa (the players are hungry and they cannot stay in a flea-infested hotel),” the Germany-based flyhalf wrote.
Rugby Afrique later issued a statement apologising for the gaffe which has gone viral.
“I apologise on behalf of Tunisia Rugby Union, we pride ourselves in hosting Rugby Afrique tournaments every year and make every effort to meet the best international standards in terms of accommodation and other infrastructure,” Rugby Afrique executive member Khaled Babbou said.
“Something went wrong for which I am sorry, but this was corrected this morning in consultation with the Sables management team.
“I can assure you that there was absolutely no intention to destabilise our opponents and we will make every possible effort to ensure they have a good preparation ahead of Saturday’s match.”
ZRU president Aaron Jani played down the incident in an interview with a local radio station.
“The representatives of our team have gone through with the Tunisia liaisons to look at an alternative hotel, which has been suggested, so they are addressing the issue,” Jani said.
“It is unfortunate that it happened during the night, but they’ve had breakfast this morning, I’m in communication with them, and now they’re looking to see if the new hotel is acceptable.
“If not, we’ve put in a contingency plan that we are prepared to pay for our own hotel accommodation and then deal with the matter later.” DailyNews