EDITORIAL COMMENT: Rot in Zim rugby pegs back sport development

THE Sports Commission deserves a lot of praise for the way they have been working around the clock to ensure that the rot in domestic rugby is cleared and they need the support of the parent Ministry of Sport, Recreation and Culture to ensure that they fix this important sporting discipline. For years now, we have watched our rugby, which used to be one of the strongest sporting disciplines in the country, lose its way and we have seen our national team, which used to be one of the strongest on the continent, become a bunch of whipping boys.

We have always been wondering why things have become so bad with this sporting discipline with the senior national team, the Sables, which used to dazzle the globe at the World Cup, now always failing to make it to the grand stage. Despite having a very strong base, with the game very competitive at school level, we have not seen that translate into a very vibrant and strong national team and teams that we used to beat, by record scores, have not only caught up with us, but are now hammering us with ease.

Some have said we are paying the price for losing a number of our best young players to other countries and those we see as promising players, during their school days, disappear from the radar and are not seen graduating into the Sables ranks to make the national team a very powerful unit. There is a bit of truth in that because the likes of David Pocock, who has transformed himself into a big star in Australia, and Tendai “Beast’’ Mtawarira, who has broken all sorts of records in the colours of the Springboks of South Africa, immediately come up as big examples.

But, hidden away from us all this time has been the apparent rot that has been destroying the soul of this game with those who are tasked with administering the sport feasting on the funds in the game rather than using them to develop the sport. What this has meant is that our rugby has not provided the conducive environment needed to lure some of our best players to remain home and make a living playing the game in the country and for their country.

The investigations launched by the Sports Commission into the way those who had been tasked with administering the game, instead, turned themselves into a bunch of individuals who were milking the sport, makes very sad reading, indeed. And, what we are being told is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Such is the mess in the sport that the Sports Commission have even recommended five-year bans for suspended executives and want an audit carried out on the association amid the serious allegations of financial impropriety that was the order of the day during the old leadership.

This is contained in a 24-page report, compiled by the Sports Commission after investigating the problems that had pegged back the ZRU and led to the suspension of the leadership of Nyararai Sibanda, Noddy Kanyangarara and Joseph Kanyete. A three-member committee comprising Clement Mukwasi (chairperson) and members Titus Zvomuya and John Falkenberg came up with the report which also recommended that an audit be carried on the ZRU amid allegations of misappropriation of funds by the executive committee.

How can they surely explain, as responsible leaders, a situation where from the £90 000 which the Zimbabwe Rugby Union receives as annual international grant from the International Rugby Board, £77 5000 is used for administration, including salaries?

And only £7 000 s was being set aside for domestic competitions and as little as £1 000 set aside for training. They noted that the money from sponsorship could have been abused because of the various different accounts that the ZRU leadership were using with a number of local banks.

“No financial systems were being observed. There is no finance committee in place, no internal audit system in place, no purchasing and supply procedures in place, so separation of roles between those who receive money, those who bank it, those who pay for supplies and those who receive the supplies,’’ the report says.

“Sponsors’ money not used transparently as a result there was disunity within ZRU as some members wanted to avoid financial scrutiny.’’

Sadly, according to the committee, even the ZRU audited report for last year had some key missing information as if to dupe those who read the report that things were normal. We cannot allow such corruption in our sport and it’s good that the Sports Commission are moving mountains to ensure that they get to the bottom of what was happening because the public really needs to know.

We need to get our rugby back on track because there is no question that we have the players who can represent this country well and make all of us smile again. Already, our cricket has shown that it’s possible to have national teams that can compete on the big stage and that is where we want our rugby to go back to.

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