HEAVYWEIGHTS . . . Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane (right) meets the special adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, at his offices in Harare yesterday. — Picture by Tawanda Mudimu

HEAVYWEIGHTS . . . Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane (right) meets the special adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, at his offices in Harare yesterday. — Picture by Tawanda Mudimu

Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
SPORT and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane has hit the ground running in his new portfolio with the Mberengwa East legislator yesterday familiarising himself with the challenges facing sport in the country.

Hlongwane, who faces a busy schedule in trying to revive sport as a key industry in this country, is today also expected to meet with the Sports Commission board to get an appraisal on the contentious state of football in Zimbabwe.

The meeting has got to do with the ZIFA audit report as well as the commission of inquiry into the state of football in this country. The report will be discussed this morning and a decision will be made in line with the recommendations.

After the meeting with the Sports Commission board, which is chaired by Edward Siwela, the minister is then expected to make his first statement to the media when he addresses them.

Yesterday, Hlongwane spent time with the Sports Commission secretariat that is led by director-general Charles Nhemachena.

It was during that familiarisation tour that the minister came face to face with the challenges confronting the various sporting disciplines in the country.

Hlongwane, then emerged from the tour to outline the five major pillars that will characterise his early days in office.

The five major pillars are administration, infrastructure development, grassroots development, setting up a development fund and training.

The setting up of a development fund is likely to receive a huge welcome from all sports codes as national associations have been struggling for viability, let alone resources for talent identification and development.

However, it would be interesting to see what will constitute the address of the new minister, as emotions are running high among the football-loving fans in Zimbabwe on what Hlongwane will say about ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube and his chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze who many people feel are behind the decay of the sport.

There’s also the burning issue of the “looting” of the gate takings by some members of the ZIFA board members after the Warriors match against Guinea at Rufaro early this month.

Hlongwane has since hinted on the clean up of ZIFA and he revealed to The Herald earlier this week that this is among his top priorities.

“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. That is very important. So we are going to be working on that,” said Hlongwane.

Meanwhile, special adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, is in the country and yesterday paid a courtesy call on Hlongane, as part of his advocacy and facilitation for the use of sport as a means to promote development.

German national, Lemke, who arrived in the country on Tuesday from South Africa as part of his visit in the Southern African region, said sport, if used correctly, can be a powerful tool to support and help the awareness, attainment and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.

“That is why I also have a possibility in the United Nations to set my own priorities, (the UN Secretary General) Ban ki-Moon said in 2008, Africa, sub-Sahara Africa, must be one of your priorities so I followed that and I have visited a lot of countries here in sub-Saharan Africa to promote sport.

“My thematic priority focus as special adviser includes the support and work for gender equality, dialogue in conflict areas, development in sub-Saharan Africa, youth development and the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

“We, as United Nations, we are interested in grassroots sport, we are not so much interested in the elite sport. You must know I don’t care if Germany went to the World Cup, but this is not important, it’s much more important that you use the power of sport for development of our people and our countries,” he said.

He said sport, which works hand in hand with education, can transform a nation.

“Many governments in the world, maybe like yours, don’t think that sport is important for our people, sport is very important for education and education is important for all countries in the world. If you don’t support education of your children you will never succeed in economy.

“A very good example is South Korea. South Korea was the poorest country after the war, 70 years ago. But these days you see a powerful state and the only reason why they are so powerful and so well organised is education. Having said that, sport is part of education, sport has so many positive values for the life skills of young boys and girls.

“They learn about team work and you will agree on team work not only in a ministry like this, but in all other areas. You cannot think that you alone can change the world. But if you come together with others, you can change it for the better,” Lemke said.

After meeting with Hlongwane, Lemke, had a series of meetings with other sporting organisations such as the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee and the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee.

He also toured a non-governmental organisation, Hoop For Hopes, which supports children and youths from the disadvantaged community with life skills through mentorship and sports.

“Yesterday (Tuesday), we visited a very nice project here in Harare called Hoops for Hope, (it is) small, but a very nice one and we have had it in many parts of the world and heard about them, so we decided to get in touch with them and we created a special programme for the youth because this is the second priority.

“I learnt that in your country and in this continent, there are thousands and thousands of young men and women who serve on a voluntarily basis or are sometimes paid in the field of sport at grassroots level for recreation, fun and friendship and this is very positive.

“Normally it is something that the government has to deliver to the people here in Zimbabwe, but knowing about all the problems in your country and the budget, I think it is very good that you get support from different partners like Unicef, where we were this morning,” he said.

In response, Hlongwane told Lemke that the country is glad that it is promoting gender equality by having such teams like the national women’s football side and it also has an annual event on the calendar, the Danhiko Games, which raises awareness among people living with disability.

“We are very happy that you have visited us today in Zimbabwe and here at the Ministry to have this conversation and that is very important.

“We appreciate the work that you are doing in the field of sport globally.

“I also know that the UN have identified 16 April as the day for sport, development and peace throughout the world.

“For us as a ministry, sport is very important in more ways than one and there a lot of opportunities for complementing the work that we are doing in respect of conflict resolution and peace building measures.

“Sport is a very important instrument to diffuse tension, to train people to accept and appreciate differences, to tolerate one another and to understand issues of competition, so that is very important in terms of peace building and also raising levels of tolerance in any society,” he said.