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Zimbabwe Sport Worse Off 34 Years After Independence

  • Michael Kariati

Critics say the state of sport in Zimbabwe is symptomatic of the ailing economy. (File Photo)

Critics say the state of sport in Zimbabwe is symptomatic of the ailing economy. (File Photo)

Today is Independence Day, but 34 years down the line, the sports industry is still to celebrate big achievements.

Some national teams are now entirely dependent on borrowing equipment from others when taking part in international competitions.

This follows revelations by the president of the Zimbabwe Kickboxing Association Tony Kamangira that such equipment is not available in Zimbabwe and importing it is expensive for most sports clubs.

Kamangira says since they do not have the equipment, they have been forced to borrow to participate in many events.

Kickboxing is not alone in this sorry state as a number of Zimbabwe national teams from basketball, tennis, swimming, diving, volleyball, and to football still fail to travel to fulfill international engagements due to lack of funds.

The state of sport in Zimbabwe is symptomatic of the ailing economy. Lack of financial resources has resulted in most Zimbabwean national teams to become punching bags of the international community.

Yet, soon after 1980, Zimbabwe was chartbusting on the international scene. The sport structures, inherited from the Ian Douglas Smith colonial regime, provided immediate success.

The Zimbabwe women’s hockey team set the tone by winning a gold medal at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

And with the backing of a vibrant corporate sector, Zimbabwe produced a three-time Commonwealth boxing champion, Langton ‘Schoolboy’ Tinago, and two Africa Boxing Union title holders Proud Kilimanjaro Chinembiri and Stix McLoud.

Zimbabwe national cricket, hockey, rugby, tennis teams were some of the most feared in world sport with the rugby team having the honour of representing Zimbabwe at the 1987 and 1991 World Cup finals.

But that is now history. Hockey has fallen from grace. In cricket, Zimbabwe are no longer as influential as they once were.

The Davis Cup team has been relegated to the Africa Zone Group Three while the likes of Tunisia, Namibia, and the Ivory Coast have all overtaken Zimbabwe as Africa’s flag bearers at the rugby World Cup.

Zimbabwe Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Anna Mguni points out that there have been some successes in most sporting disciplines over the past 34 years.

She singles out Nick Price, the world’s top golfer in 1993, Evan Stewart, the globe’s world diving champion in 1994, World Boxing Council International bantamweight champion, Charles Manyuchi, and Kirsty Coventry who won seven medals in two Olympic Games.

But Mguni emphasizes that these successes have not been a result of the Zimbabwe national sports development programme, but of the home development system in which their talents were nurtured at home.

As Zimbabweans celebrate 34 years of independence, Zimbabwe Football Association president Cuthbert Dube is crying for help and a change of attitude in the manner in which sport has been treated since 1980.

Dube, who belongs to the ruling Zanu PF is honest enough saying the reason for Zimbabwe’s drastic fall has been the government’s negative attitude towards sport adding that since 1980, there has never been a budget for sport.

Even the former Deputy Minister of Education, Arts, Sports and Culture, Lazarus Dokora, admits that the government has in the past 34 years let sport down.

Dokora says sport just like any other economic industry should be funded by treasury.

Most people agree. They say that given that sport is an industry that can play an important role in economic growth, treasury should have devoted adequate financial resources to allow the industry to unlock its full potential.

They are of the opinion that nothing has been done to enhance the sports industry since 1980 yet less important sections have been getting huge financial assistance.

Ironically, the then Minister of Education, Arts, Sports and Culture, David Coltart, was open enough saying he would rather channel most of his budget to education as sport was a luxury.

But Dube says this is unfortunate as in other countries national teams are funded by their governments yet this is just a dream in Zimbabwe.

Although education has been separated from sport, and the new Sport, Arts and Culture Ministry has been allocated funding, there seems to be not much change.

Only $10 million has been set aside for sport with almost half of it going to the Sports and Recreation Commission.

However, Kadoma Rugby Club player Samuel Matanda is still optimistic that the new ministry will in future bring the much-needed change that has been missing in the past three decades.

But when will that be? After 34 years, Zimbabwe should not have been talking of a national team borrowing equipment for various competitions.

A national team sleeping on the floor in a foreign land or national teams being thrown out of international competitions!

This clearly shows that something is wrong somewhere.

As long as those in authority are not willing to change. Next year, on Independence Day, Zimbabweans will still be talking of the same story.
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