Mehluli Sibanda in BULAWAYO
AFGHANISTAN Interior Minister Wais Barmak has written to Zimbabwe’s Minister of Sport and Recreation Makhosini Hlongwane to provide guarantees on the safety of the 11 local cricketers playing in the Asian country’s Shpageeza Twenty20 Cricket League. In a letter dated 15 September, Barmak expressed his appreciation to the Zimbabwean Government for the continuous collaboration in the area of sport with the relationship between the two nations having grown stronger over the years.
Barmak informed Hlongwane that the Afghanistan Cricket Board was currently holding their domestic competition, the Shpageeza Cricket League, in Kabul where a number of foreign players, including those from Zimbabwe, are participating.
Prior to the start of the competition, Barmak said Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had given a clear course to put in place high-level security which has so far ensured that the event takes place in a secure environment.
He went on to explain the events of last Wednesday where a suicide bomb blast outside a stadium where some of the Zimbabweans were playing a match.
“Unfortunately a security incident happened in Kabul on Wednesday 13th September within the same district as where the ACB is located.
“The security arrangement we had in place ensured that the attacker were prevented from getting inside the security cordon that was in place.
‘’The particular cricket game was stopped briefly to ensure the safety of all players, match officials, ACB staff and the cricket fans but it resumed as soon as a security clearance was issued,’’ wrote Barmak. He went on to give an assurance on the safety of everybody involved in the Shpageeza Cricket League, including the Zimbabwean players.
Barmak stated that the Islamic country’s security departments had increased the security to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the tournament.
“I would like to assure you that the safety of everyone, including the Zimbabwean players and match officials involved in the Shpageeza Cricket League is very important to Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
We have met with your delegation to discuss the security arrangements and we have intensified all our efforts to increase the security measure even further.
“These steps include extra security where they are staying, police escort and increasing police presence at the sport venue. We understand that your delegation are happy with these arrangements,’’ said Barmak.
Sought for comment on Barmak’s letter, Hlongwane pointed to the Sports and Recreation Commission’s chairman Edward Siwela’s statement issued on Saturday.
Siwela stated that the SRC only clears athletes going to represent Zimbabwe outside the country and not individuals.
“Athletes who travel and play outside the country in their individual capacity are not required by the SRC Act to clear themselves. In such cases, it is the prerogative of the National Sports Association and International Federation to grant authority for them to play,’’ Siwela said.
Zimbabwe Cricket chairman, Tavengwa Mukuhlani, indicated that they had asked the Afghanistan Government to write to the Zimbabwean authorities to give an assurance on the safety of the 11 local players in the war-ravaged country.
This was after the players ignored an order issued by ZC last Wednesday for them to return home immediately, stating that they were safe in Afghanistan, despite the bomb blast.
Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Sikandar Raza, Vusumuzi Sibanda, Elton Chigumbura, Luke Jongwe, Tendai Chatara, Richard Ngarava, Ryan Burl, Richmond Mutumbami and Tendai Chisoro are the Zimbabwe cricketers in Afghanistan. The Shpageeza Cricket League started on 11 September and ends on Friday.
Mukuhlani pointed out that the situation was tricky because some of the cricketers have no contracts with ZC which means the sport’s governing body has no power to order them to come home.
This is despite the fact that it was ZC who issued the players with the No Objection Certificates which allowed them to play in Afghanistan.