Peter Chingoka April 17, 2009

Zimbabwe's dinosaur breaks cover

Steven Price reports that the net might be closing around Peter Chingoka, Zimbabwe Cricket's long-serving chairman

One of the rarest of cricketing dinosaurs finally emerged from cover in Dubai this week.

Peter Chingoka, Zimbabwe Cricket's chairman since 1992, has been almost invisible since he was forced to miss the last ICC executive meeting in Australia after being banned from entering the country because of his links to the Mugabe regime.

With the roadshow back in the five-star comfort of Dubai, Chingoka was on safe ground. As the ICC's longest-standing executive member - his 17-year tenure dwarfs the next most senior member, Kenya's Samir Inamdar who was appointed in 2005 - it was only right that he attended.

But back in Zimbabwe, Chingoka has been completely anonymous. The general consensus is that he has been keeping a deliberately low profile following the appointment of David Coltart as the minister for education, sports and culture under the new joint government.

For now, Coltart's priority is to try to rebuild Zimbabwe's once impressive but now almost completely ruined education system. But insiders suggest that he is already formulating plans to tackle cricket, which is one of his passions, and some suggest that could see a complete clearout of the ZC hierarchy.

Under the old Mugabe regime, it was widely believed that Chingoka and other senior officers were in effect protected by their contacts to senior Zanu-PF officials inside the government.

While Mugabe and his party still wield considerable power, it is diminished. Coltart recently briefed journalists that he needed to get his facts in order before he summoned Chingoka and others for a meeting.

When it happens, Chingoka is likely to be subjected to a far tougher grilling than he has ever faced before, either internally or from the less-than-tigerish ICC executive on which he has expertly forged enough alliances to be able to sidestep some of the trickier situations in recent years.

For now, Chingoka is back in the environment he enjoys the most, although he will miss the next shindig, the ICC's centenary jamboree in London in June, because he is also unwelcome in the European Union.

But whether he is still around when the next-but-one meeting is held in October is quite another matter. Even the dinosaurs eventually had their time.

Steven Price is a freelance journalist based in Harare