CSA enter an unwise alliance

2009-10-31 00:00

CRICKET South Africa ought not to be in such a rush to accommodate its neighbour across the Limpopo. Camaraderie can be taken too far. Indeed, it already has been. Not so many years ago, the late Percy Sonn, then the leading light at CSA and one of the governing party’s most incisive thinkers, produced a report pretending that the election in Zimbabwe had been free and fair. Of course, he knew it was piffle, told a mutual friend as much.

It was ANC policy and Sonn was a loyal cadre. His party was more interested in supporting corrupt and aged warriors than the common man, more interested in the vicious elite than in justice. And so tyranny was given a green light. Nowadays it’s as impossible to be a good man in Zanu-PF as it was to be a good Nazi in 1941. And, though they deny it and watch their noses grow, those in charge at Zimbabwe Cricket are part and parcel of the Zanu-PF kleptocracy.

CSA has prematurely invited its counterpart to take part in a forthcoming one-day triangular tournament. Certainly ZC has taken steps to brush up its image, but the rottenness remains intact; the same abysmal frauds run the show, the same thugs, the same nasty creations. Nothing has changed, it’s all window-dressing.

As soon as the “unity” government breaks up the old poisonous attitudes will return. Until then the senior officers will continue to play their pretty little games, appointing a few token whites, buttering up the Indians, keeping the credulous Australians onside. It’s all part of the show.

Admittedly, Zimbabwean cricket has improved in the last few months. It could hardly get any worse. Experienced selectors and coaches have been appointed. Moreover ZC has long had an excellent development programme and deserves credit for that. Many of those playing in Bangladesh (there were six blacks and five whites in the team) were given ZC scholarships and attended the same high school where they benefited from committed coaching.

Mostly is has been an accident of history. Black education was suppressed in South Africa so that young blacks attended farm or township schools that provided the most basic instruction and whose main purpose was to retain the peasantry and cheap labour. Contrastingly, in cities and rural areas alike, many Zimbabweans, including Mugabe, were sent to superb missionary schools. Cricket and learning flourished in these outstanding establishments. The missionaries were also strong in the Eastern Cape, the source of most of this country’s best black cricketers and rugby players. In short, Zimbabwean cricket had strong foundations.

ZC’s task since independence has been to widen the appeal of the game. It’s not been easy because the white population was deeply conservative and considerably racist — the farmers kept voting for the appalling Ian Smith. Progress was slow. Test cricketers cannot be microwaved. To its detriment, the white establishment did not fully grasp the urgency of the situation.

And then came the political troubles as Zanu PF kept losing and then fixing elections as those with blood on their hands and dirty millions in their Malaysian accounts became fearful. State-sanctioned terror followed — I have met terrified former soldiers who have sobbed as they told tales of rape and torture and killings and being told never ever to salute Morgan Tsvangirai. Meanwhile, they feared reprisals from the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation for breaking vows of silence made at their exits. I know victims who’ve had terrible things done to them. What do you want — phone numbers? I can name many people who have died.

Now ZC seeks to resume its place in the family of cricketing nations. Suddenly, Peter Chingoka, its longstanding, well-connected and wealthy ingrate, is all sweetness and light. It’s a facade. He is a chameleon. This same Chingoka, whose twin brother was drummed out of sport because of his corruption, can hold his tongue as previous sports ministers spew the most vile bilge alike to senior ICC officials and current MPs of both parties.

Among Indians he can play the role of post-colonial champion. Among cricketers he can talk knowledgably about the game. Among Westerners he can present himself as a civilised man trying to keep the game going in twisted times. Among businessmen he can talk about his overseas properties and investments in mining companies. With Zanu-PF, he can depend on the backing of the powerful Mujuru faction. Among whiskey drinkers he can discuss the merits of his beloved Black Label. He is nasty and plausible.

Chingoka, his loathsome allies Ozias Bvute and Givemore Makoni, who has trashed busses on tour and shouted insults at Australian players, have changed their strategy because Zimbabwe has changed. They fear the scrutiny of an astute, fearless cricketing sports minister. For now, David Coltart has his hands full with education. It’s not easy to pay teachers when all the money has been stolen from the coffers (whereupon sanctions are blamed for the resulting starvation, sickness and deaths).

Eventually he will inspect ZC and its books. By then, Chingoka will have changed again, into a charming character. More likely, Zimbabwe will collapse as the wickedness continues. And then CSA might rue its decision to renew close contact with the unapologetic representatives of a foul regime.

 

Peter Roebuck is an international cricket correspondent who is based in the KZN midlands.

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