Zimbabwe news January 25, 2013

Zimbabwe Cricket reject selection directive

Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) is bracing for a battle with the country's Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) after they decided to reject the authority's directive on who was eligible to be a national selectors. ZC are the only national sports association to refuse to implement the order which comes into effect next Friday.

The directive has been the cause of much concern in Zimbabwe Cricket since it was mooted last October. Its initial draft stated that only former national players could be considered as selectors. ZC took issue with that because of Zimbabwe's past which saw few black African players represent the country at national level. It said the directive would continue to marginalise the majority of the population by ruling them out of administrative positions.

In a statement, ZC's managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa argued the SRC's edict would require ZC to change its constitution, breach its contractual obligations with current selectors and conflict with the ICC's Articles of Association because it amounts to "government interference in the management of the affairs of the member associations." As a result, ZC "does not consider it proper for the Commission to require it to comply with the directive."

David Coltart, Zimbabwe's minister of education, sports, arts and culture, "noted with regret," ZC's decision and called their reasons "baseless and spurious." He denied specifically that the SRC is contravening the ICC's rules and pointed to the Sri Lanka Cricket Board as an example.

"The Sri Lankan Minister of Sport actually appoints the entire cricket selectors' panel. The SRC directive does not go anywhere near as far this long standing Sri Lankan law nor was it ever intended to.

"It is most unfortunate that despite the SRC amendment issued on the 23rd January 2013, designed to accommodate legitimate concerns about the need to include non ex-national players in selectors panels, Zimbabwe Cricket has still decided to defy a national directive designed in the best interests of all sports in Zimbabwe. The Board of the SRC will consider in due course what action to take in terms of the Sports and Recreation Commission Act."

According to the Act, the SRC have the power to sanction ZC to the extent that they can dissolve its board.

ZC named current assistant coach Stephen Mangongo as a victim of the new policy. Mangongo is one of three applicants (Heath Streak and Grant Flower are the other two) to have applied for the job of Zimbabwe head coach when Alan Butcher vacates his post after the West Indies tour in March. Because ZC have changed their own selection policy to state that the national coach is also a selector, they were worried that Mangongo would no longer be in contention for the job as he did not play for Zimbabwe.

The SRC recognised the concerns around the racial politics at play and expanded the directive to include a number of non ex-players on the selection committee. On Wednesday, they published the new version which allows for 50% of the selection panel not to have been former internationals but to have "coaching experience or some technical expertise in the particular sport."

Despite the changes to the directive, ZC are not satisfied and on Thursday issued their rebuttal and legally challenged the SRC. "The effect of the directive is to require ZC to amend its lawfully registered constitution so as to oblige the board to stipulate the qualifications of the conveners as required by the directive. Simply complying with the directive without amending the constitution will not be competent," ZC said.

"There is presently no cause for the amendment of the constitution except the directive. The Commission cannot require ZC to act unlawfully or outside its constitution. Moreover, ZC has entered into contracts with the current independent selectors which would be summarily terminated if the directive were to be implemented. ZC has no cause to terminate the contracts of the current selectors and has not made any provision for the damages claimable by them in its budget for the breach of the contracts…. It appears that the Commission has no legal capacity to require ZC to do what the directive demands."

ZC's current selection panel includes former Test player Wayne James and coach Butcher while Givemore Makoni, a long-time administrator of the game, has a casting vote and was its most recent convener. The panel had to be reorganised after the other selector, Kevin Curran, died last year. When Curran was on the committee, the coach, Butcher, was not a selector but was used in an advisory capacity only. Makoni has been outspoken in his objections to the directive calling it "racist" and "utter rubbish."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent