Changing the Face of Zimbabwean Sport

The British colony of Rhodesia, later governed by a white settler minority as a unilaterally-independent country, practiced racial segregation in many spheres, Including education, sport, health care access and political participation. Though racial segregation tended to exist on a less formal level than its neighbor, apartheid South Africa, segregationist policies were nonetheless invasive and virtually complete In some areas. Sport was a heavily contested sphere, In which pockets of black African autonomy and advancement existed alongside near-complete white omination, largely, but not entirely, free of government intrusion.

The racism issue In Zimbabwe cricket was In fact, different from usual racism Issues. The problem was not that the white cricketers were being racist towards the black cricketers; the issue was that the black cricketers had not had equal opportunities to become as experienced as the whites and therefore the black selectors were so fearful that they would be discriminated against that they therefore became discriminatory themselves.

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I believe this problem was directly connected to scientific racism ecause the black cricket selector’s maln fear was that the whites would exclude them and feel superior. In order to correct the Injustices of the past, the black cricket selectors Introduced The Integration Task Force whose goals were, amongst others, to ensure at least 7 black players were in the National Team. The thinking behind this was to have a national team whose ethnicity reflected 98% of the countrys population.

On the other side of the argument were generational white cricket selectors who felt selection should be based on cricketing performance alone and that the best people to Judge his would be selectors with International cricketing experience, They Justified this by saying that Zimbabwe would lose their international test cricketing status if they fielded a weak team. When I conducted the interviews, one of the questions asked was “In your opinion, what was the main cause of the conflict in Zimbabwean cricket?

All of the interviewees gave similar answers and agreed that the problem stemmed from there being not enough finance budgeted by the government to develop cricket in previously disadvantaged areas and schools. This caused many black Zimbabweans o miss out on the chance to receive proper training. The Integration Task Force goals were, in fact, noble in budgeting extra finances for developing cricket programs in underprivileged schools but the quota system they tried to introduce into the national team is what truly caused all the controversy.

The captain of the Zimbabwean Cricket Team, Heath Streak, was being told to tell white players they were not good enough for the national side and were being replaced by black players. Atone point Streak was told that unless he had five black players from Mashonaland in his team, the game would be boycotted and the pitch dug up. Unable to stomach the injustice of the situation Streak demanded action from the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU).

He felt that selection policy was inconsistent and discriminatory and was appalled that selectors were not even bothering to attend matches. Two weeks later Heath Streak was fired and replaced by a black captain, Tatenda Taibu. At the beginning of this year, minister for Sport and Recreation, David Coltart, put forward a directive requiring that only those coaches who have played for a national side be considered as cricket selectors.

Almost all of the interviewees agreed with his statement saying that selection should be purely performance based when it comes to sport at international level. Chief cricket selector, Givemore Makoni accused Coltart of racism arguing that there was a very small pool of black players to choose from meaning that the selection panel would be staffed only by whites. The ZCU later stated Coltart’s directive would not be implemented, Judging it to be illegal. The ZCU chairman, Peter Chingoka then called for an all-staker conference to tackle all racism allegations.

I agree, along with most of my interviewees that Coltart’s irective was not racist and was in fact needed to keep Zimbabwe’s status in test cricket. l think this issue can only be resolved now by involving recent black players in the cricketing selection process and very unbiased experienced selectors” this was the common response of my interviewees and I agree completely with this statement. I believe that unless both white and black cricketers come to a mutual agreement in the selection of new players, there will never be peace and harmony.