Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
Government has said it values the support of the International Cricket Committee towards Zimbabwe Cricket and commits itself to the development of the game in the country.
Zimbabwe achieved a major boardroom victory at the weekend when the country averted a possible suspension from the ICC with the game’s world leadership, instead, choosing to throw their full weight behind the revival of the domestic sport.
The country was facing the grim possibility of being put on notice for suspension from the ICC in Dublin, Ireland, at the weekend — a move which would have turned off the taps that have been providing the game with its critical financial support — paralysing the sport here and plunging it into darkness.
In the event of suspension, the $94 million from the ICC, which Zimbabwe expects over the next eight years, would have been whittled down to just about $8 million, over the same number of years, because the country would have lost its place among the Full Members.
But the threat of suspension was averted after a ZC delegation, led by chairman Tavengwa Mukhuhani and consultant Vince van der Bijl, successfully fought the cocktail of sanctions and even received fresh commitment from the ICC leaders for a helping hand in the revival of the game in this country.
The ICC will now send a delegation to help ZC find a way out of the challenges that have been haunting them for some time now and the resolutions from the indaba in Dublin also, crucially, provide the domestic game with the big financial injection which it has been crying for to pay off what is owed to their players and staff by the end of this month.
The Government also revealed yesterday that it had provided a commitment to the ICC that it was fully supportive of the organisation continued support for the game in this country.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kazembe Kazembe, provided the ICC with a firm commitment that the Government was fully behind them in their support of local cricket.
Kazembe wrote to ICC chairman, Shanshank Manohar, last week ahead of the organisation’s annual conference in Dublin, Ireland.
“The Government of Zimbabwe values the support of the ICC and commits to further the development of cricket in Zimbabwe,’’ Kazembe wrote.
“As a sign of its commitment, to ensure (the) continued operation of ZC, the Government of Zimbabwe has already housed the US$14.3 million debt under Zimbabwe Asset Management Company (ZAMCO).
“Concerned that funds from ICC are now being used to clear debts, instead of cricket development in Zimbabwe, the Government of Zimbabwe is determined to evaluate the appropriate level of haircut being requested by the ICC that secures the future and a healthy balance sheet of ZC by year 2023.
“Taking into account the fact that the Government of Zimbabwe is now being requested to involve itself in the financial affairs of ZC, it becomes necessary, therefore, to ensure that certain safeguards are put in place in order to ensure greater transparency and accountability in relation to the manner in which these debts were accrued and the purposes for which the funds were applied.
“To ensure turnaround, restoration of good governance and healthy balance sheer at ZC by 2023, the Government of Zimbabwe banks on and requests the continued support of ICC. Please accept assurances of my highest consideration.’’
The latest developments means a stand-off over funds owed to key players has resulted in some of them missing the current Twenty20 International Tri-Series, which also features Pakistan, the number one ranked Twenty20 team in the world, and Australia, who are ranked third.
The ICC wanted local cricket leaders to provide them with a guarantee that the multi-million-dollar debt, which stands at around $19 million, owed to local banks will get a 30 percent discount on the principal amount with the world governing body also providing a similar haircut on the $6 million which ZC owe them.
The $19 million debt has been housed under ZAMCO who provided Mukuhlani and his delegation a guarantee that the domestic debt would get a 30 percent discount on the principal amount, which was a key requirement for the suspension to be averted.
The interest rate on the debt, which has been housed under ZAMCO, will then be frozen at 6.5 percent until 2023, and the ICC will then make a one-off payment to ZAMCO by 2023, for the dissolution of the ZC loan on their shelves with this leaving ZC without debt and with breathing space for their operations.
The ICC believe this is the best possible debt resolution strategy — over an eight-year period — which will not only ultimately end with Zimbabwe cricket being freed from its bondage of debt but will also ensure that the funds which are pumped into the domestic game will end servicing the sport rather than servicing the debts.