It’s now game on

GAME ONEddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
New Sports and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane says those with questionable corporate governance records have no room in leadership positions in Zimbabwean sport and wants those in charge of ZIFA to clean up their act.

Hlongwane, who was recently appointed by President Mugabe, yesterday told The Herald that sport, especially football, has the potential to become a big industry which employs many people in line with the country’s economic policies.

However, the game has not been able to realise its full potential because of administrative shortcomings.

“Our approach as a ministry is that football, like any other sporting discipline, is an industry. It is an industry that needs to be nurtured and to be developed so that investors can find their space in that industry as well as dividends being declared and profits being made by those that invest in football,” said Hlongwane.

“But beyond that football must be able to attract sponsorship. Therefore, to that extent as a Ministry, we think that our intervention at the level of policy is on dealing with the governance and compliance issues as far as the running of sport in the country is concerned.

“This is an issue that is very high on my priorities. Good corporate governance in sport is very key to the success of Zimbabwe as a footballing nation. If we do not deal with governance issues, if we do not laundry out right now issues of good corporate governance, we will find ourselves continuing to dance in circles and lines and we do not want to do that.”

However, Hlongwane faces a huge test as the nation awaits to see how he is going to handle the crisis at ZIFA. The football mother body is the main problem child in his new portfolio.

His predecessor Andrew Langa was often criticised for the way he treated issues at ZIFA, which have now deteriorated into a disaster.

The association’s books are in the red, with debts having ballooned to over $6 million in the last five years.

The football mother body has been tormented by numerous problems which have affected participation in international events and stifled results. Zimbabwe this year faced the humiliation of being kicked out of the World Cup after failing to settle a debt of former coach Valinhos.

The board has also been rocked by divisions and some members have been sacked without being given a chance to defend themselves as should be the case.

The crisis has led the Sports Commission to set up a commission of inquiry into the affairs of the association.

The investigation has since been completed and the report, which says the main problem at ZIFA centres around its president Cuthbert Dube and chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze, will be discussed this week.

Hlongwane was also furnished with the audit into the recent match between Zimbabwe and Guinea which looked into allegations of financial misconduct.

The minister said a solution has to be found for football and hinted that a clean-up was needed at the ZIFA House to get the game back on its feet. A meeting is scheduled this week with stakeholders and on Thursday the minister is expected to make his first statement on the issue.

“One of the issues is obviously to laundry out issues at ZIFA and make sure that ZIFA has a sparkling clean image that is capable of attracting investment into the game of football,” said Hlongwane.

“That is very important. So we are going to be working on that. I have a meeting on Thursday morning with the Sports and Recreation Commission to discuss the report that has been put together by the commission as directed by the ministry to investigate issues at ZIFA in respect of such issues as the match between Zimbabwe and Guinea as well as the general inability of ZIFA to make football a winning sport in Zimbabwe.

“On Thursday, I’m going to be issuing a statement in respect of how we are going to be proceeding with regards to issues of ZIFA, but of course the SRC is the organisation that is supposed to be dealing with those matters.

“They have done a report and that report is ready. It is going to be brought to us and we are going to interrogate it on Thursday. Several recommendations are going to be put on the table. We are going to act on the basis of those recommendations that are going to be put on the table.”

But while football tops the list because of its popularity, the minister said he wants to see Zimbabwe transform into a winning nation in various sports codes.

He said it was important to look at ways to improve funding of sports from grassroots level, stakeholder engagement and harnessing the corporate world.

He said, besides the sports policy which is now at advanced stages, Zimbabwe needed to come up with a national strategy for sports.

“We are going to make sure that all sports are equally visible. We don’t want any sport to be referred to as a minority sport.

“Of course, football is the flagship, one would say at the present moment, but we must allow competition of the various disciplines that enables the evolution of other disciplines to occupy the centre stage as far as sport is concerned in Zimbabwe.

“We have disciplines like chess for example, it’s a very important sport. We have tennis, we have cricket in Zimbabwe which is a very big sport.

“We want to see how we can assist, to value add the processes that are happening as far as cricket is concerned.

“We have rugby, we want also to interrogate that and say how do we assist the development of rugby in the country. But I can assure you we also want to look at traditional games.

“How do you make tsoro an important part of the sporting fraternity in our country, an integral part of the sporting fraternity instead of leaving those traditional games of ours out there in the periphery?” said Hlongwane.