Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE Sports and Recreation Commission, the ultimate custodians of statutes governing domestic sport organisations, might have been breaking the law for the last two years by having their affairs run by an acting director-general despite such an arrangement having no room in the Act of Parliament on which this organisation’s existence is founded.
The SRC was created by an Act of Parliament Chapter 25:15 of 1991, revised in 1996 and derive their mandate from the Act and report to the Government, through the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation, to oversee the general running of sport and recreation programmes by the country’s national sport associations.
They are a parastatal which came into existence after the 1989 Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the organisation of sport and recreation in the country, which recommended the creation of the SRC, which came into being on September 1, 1991, through an Act of Parliament Chapter 25:15 of 1991, revised in 1996.
The Act empowers the Sports Minister, after consultations with the President and subject to such directions as the President may give, to appoint the commissioners, who are known as the board, and are made up of a chairman and not fewer than five and not more than nine other members.
The director-general is an ex-officio member of the board, but, unlike the commissioners, is not appointed by the Sports Minister, but is instead, an appointee of the board itself, in terms of the SRC Act Chapter 24, with the minister being called in to provide approval for their choice.
Joseph Muchechetere has been running the SRC as an acting director-general since replacing Charles Nhemachena, who retired in March 2016, after having served in that capacity for a decade.
The search for a substantive director-general has been going on and in April last year, a number of potential candidates, including Muchechetere, were interviewed for the post, but the SRC board said none of the individuals met their expectations.
The SRC board then flighted another advert in the country’s mainstream newspapers calling for those interested in the position to apply.
However, it has since emerged the decision to leave the SRC under the stewardship of an acting director-general is unlawful as it violates the very law that provided the founding of the country’s supreme sport regulatory body.
The prevailing situation could be a time bomb waiting to explode as participation of the acting director-general in matters relating to the SRC in the past two years can be argued to have made such cases null and void because of the presence of an office-bearer, whose position is not provided for by the Act on which the organisation was founded.
A number of associations, notably, rugby and handball, who have flown into turbulence ending up sucking in the acting director-general of the SRC could argue that everything that happened then, including the suspension of the previous rugby leadership, was null and void.
However, in rugby’s case, after they were threatened with expulsion by World Rugby, the constituency came together and decided to follow their constitution and elected a new leadership under Aaron Jani, which has been receiving widespread praise for the way they have been turning around the game.
If the supreme sports regulatory body are violating the Act on which they owe their existence, especially in the appointment of a very key figure like the person who runs the organisation on a daily basis, how can they be expected to provide the regulation for the national associations which they oversee?
How has such an anomaly been allowed to run for close to two years without anyone alerting the authorities that there is something wrong with the structure in place at the Sports Commission in relation to the laws of this country, which are possibly being flouted by the very sporting organisation supposed to ensure they are protected?
Is the absence of a fully-fledged legal department, especially at an organisation that is supposed to supervise more than 50 national associations, who have to lodge their constitutions with the SRC for them to be granted the licence to operate in this country, the reason why the SRC have been bathing in this mess for about two years?
Can it then, in such a scenario, be argued that all communication, which has come from the Sports Commission in the past two years, bearing the signature of Muchechetere as the acting director-general, was in contravention of the laws of this country and can be deemed to be null and void?
While the SRC Act 25:15, revised in 1996, provides for the commissioners (the board members) to fill the role of one of them in an acting capacity, should events dictate for such an arrangement, it doesn’t make provisions for the appointment of an acting director-general.
That the appointment of a Sports Commission director-general is, in fact, stipulated by law, makes it a position which should not be handled with the kind of laxity – in contravention of the law itself – as has been seen in the way the organisation have handled this position since Nhemachena’s retirement.
Article 24 of the Act, which deals with the director-general, says:
24 (i) The board shall appoint, subject to this Act and on such terms and conditions as the board, with the approval of the minister, may fix, a person approved by the minister to be the director-general.
24 (ii) No person shall be appointed as director-general and no person shall hold office as director-general if he is not ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe. Section 10 of the Act deals with the ‘’filling of vacancies on the board,’’ but does not deal with the filling of the vacancy of the director-general and the handing of such a portfolio to someone in an acting capacity. The Act gives a clear description, in Section 2, of who are referred to as members of the board, whose portfolios can be taken over in an acting capacity, and, clearly, the director-general does not fall in that category.
Member ‘’means the chairman or any other member of the board referred to in subsection (1) of Section Five,’’ with Section 5 (1) saying the board shall consist of ‘’a chairman and not fewer than five and not more than nine other members appointed by the minister after consultation with the President and subject to such directions as the President may give him,’’ while Section 5 (2) defines the difference between the membership, for whom acting roles are provided and the director-general.
While there are provisions for the acting chairman, and other commissioners to conduct their roles in an acting capacity, nowhere in the Act is there the role of an acting director-general provided for. And Muchechetere has been in that role for about two years now.