October 23, 2006

Zimbabwe cricket

The fish rots from the head

Martin Williamson





Peter Chingoka: 'To look at him nowadays is to see a man who knows the corruption of his soul' © Getty Images
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Peter Roebuck has been among the most vocal critics of Zimbabwe Cricket in the last couple of years, but his syndicated column this weekend was hard-hitting even by his standards.

In the Sydney Morning Herald he launched a stinging attack on Peter Chingoka and Ozias Bvute, the chairman and managing director of the board, demanding that they be removed from office immediately.

It's no use waiting for the local police to act, let alone the cricket community, because these scoundrels long ago stacked the board - besides which, they have friends in high places. Chingoka will resist every attempt to launch an investigation into their activities. They know that any genuine investigation will result in long prison sentences.

Roebuck continued:

Under the shameless stewardship of these men, the game in Zimbabwe has sunk into a pit of bullying, corruption and despair. The good work performed by numerous coaches and the promise of young black and white cricketers has been betrayed. Money intended for the development of the game has been used for private purposes. Any player daring to question the conduct of these thugs has been chased away, or else threatened.

And Roebuck went on to savage Chingoka, who, he wrote, had become a pitiful figure:

To look at him nowadays is to see a man who knows the corruption of his soul. Drink has become his solace. It was not always the case. Until a few years ago, Chingoka's reputation remained high. Eloquent, intelligent and charming, he represented the best of liberated Africa. He was universally trusted. Not bad progress for an Ndebele in a country dominated by Shona. The only warning sign was a passing remark made to a cricket official from another country. Something about ‘playing the hand he had been given’. Principles meant nothing to him. The result has been a man drunk on power and liquor.

Chingoka's deterioration has been painful to behold. Money has been his undoing. He has always enjoyed flash cars, malt whiskey, tailored suits, elegant houses. Alas, he sold his name to obtain them.

And Bvute does not escape Roebuck’s attention either:

If anything, Bvute is even worse. He who does not bother to hide his ignorance about cricket, his contempt for the players or his greed. Despite a shady past that allegedly includes dubious dealings in Botswana, Bvute secured and maintained a high position in Zimbabwe cricket. He is as thick as thieves with the crooks running the country. Like them, he conceals his improprieties under a cover of post-colonial bluster, hides his disregard for the common man beneath a veneer of populist claptrap. Meanwhile, he keeps his snout in the trough.

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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