Great Dyke, a belt rich with minerals and sporting talent

05 Nov, 2023 - 00:11 0 Views
Great Dyke, a belt rich with minerals and sporting talent Benjani Mwaruwaru,Herbert Dick andCuthbert Malajila

The Sunday News

IN my formative years of journalism training I was taught never to be the subject in any story I write.

I have over the years found it very difficult to feature “I” in whatever I write. This week will be an exception for a reason. Last Thursday morning I found myself being part of the Nedbank Tour de Great Dyke, a unique cycling event. It is not the first cycle event that I have covered but this one was different in a way as it was a gruelling 320km mental and physical challenge for the athletes cycled over three days of varying weather conditions.

The first leg, the longest took the tour party from Selous between Norton and Chegutu at Zimplats Mine to Kwekwe. The cyclists were on the road for the 140km journey which they undertook in less than seven hours with stops along the way for the cyclists to rest, sponsors and partners of the event to market their brands along the way to enthusiastic audiences and communities.

The second leg was a mountain challenge of some sort between Kwekwe and Shurugwi where at times cyclists looked sapped off their last energy levels as they dealt with steep climbs at sure delight when in full swing downhill with big names Nkulumo Dube and national champion Rodrick Shumba at times testing their own capabilities.

It was great to see two Chamber of Mines cycling greats of different generations Enock Phiri (45) and Wilson Dube whose cycling career began over 57 years ago participating. With sheer determination, Dube was able to finish the race and was bold enough to declare that he would be back next year.

The Great Dyke dates back to millions of years ago when there was a volcanic eruption that created a belt that is 520km long and 14km wide. But its influence extends far beyond a great radius and within that are the platinum group of metals like chrome, lithium, and platinum which are very significant in the country’s economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product, employment figures, and a big chunk of the country’s population is concentrated along the Great Dyke.

The history of Zimbabwe’s sport is incomplete without mention of sportspersons from within the Great Dyke stretch. Only one major mine outside the stretch can raise its hand and declare that it has been a significant feature in Zimbabwe sport and that is Hwange Colliery Limited.

Otherwise, most of the top athletes in a number of disciplines including top ones have hailed from mining towns along the Great Dyke. Until the last two decades, previous teams to the All-Africa, Commonwealth, Olympic Games, and World Championships were dominated by athletes from the mines along the Great Dyke.

It was part of the settler community to provide a beer hall, athletics track, football pitch, a clinic all within close proximity so that at any emergency call they knew where to find staff members.

Within that concept, as years passed by the facilities were used for sport for recreation but evolved to competitive levels good enough to make an impact nationally and regionally with the mines resourced well enough even to partake on tours to either South Africa and Zambia.

That culture grew and was passed on to generations along the way. With entertainment opportunities few, sport became the only “thing” to keep mining town residents gainfully engaged far from another counter attraction beer drinking.

But the imbibers were lucky in that in some instances the beerhall/brewery was just next to the soccer pitch and just adjacent were arenas for traditional dances and other sports. The Great Dyke has been a boon for sport growth and it is not strange that the 320km Nedbank Tour de Great Dyke has done so much to market cycling as a sport while at the same time raising funds for charity and raising awareness about mining and opportunities within the whole length of the geologically rich belt.

Another take away obviously raising awareness about wellness and its significance in productivity within the sector.  Among some of the best football teams the country has had have been clubs like How Mine, Shabanie Mine, Lancashire Steel, FC Platinum, Ngezi Platinum, Rio Tinto, Ziscosteel and Mhangura.

Stars like the Chiezas,  Itai, Winston, George, Isaac and Tendai, Lovemore Nyabeze, Philemon Phiri, John Phiri, Gilbert Majonda, Jonathan Chikaponya, Aleck Masanjala, Benjamin Zulu and Gerald Phiri have been some of the big names to emerge from Mhangura on either side of Independence.

They gave Mashonaland West something to celebrate in football. Lomagundi Smelting Mine which gave the greatest  Zimbabwe sprinter, Artwell Mandaza, the first man to run a sub 10 seconds 100m in the world, also emerged from within the Great Dyke belt.

Who would forget Rio Tinto the club that gave Zimbabwe fine athletes like Boniface and Dera Magodo, great cyclists, footballers Robert Godoka, Raphael Phiri, Ephert Lungu, Robert Phiri, Wonder Phiri, Victor Mapanda, David Mwanza, Ernest Makosa, Abraham Likombola, Boniface Chiseko, Anderson Maphosa, John Phiri and one of the best soccer coaches ever John Rugg.

Julia Sakala Zimbabwe’s most decorated athlete in terms of international medals won comes from the Chegutu and Kadoma belt which also gave birth to Cuthbert Malajila, Herbert Dick, Richard March, Benjani Mwaruwari whose career developed there when he moved from the Highlanders reserve team, Saidi Saidi among a group of players who found stardom once they moved out of that part of the country.

Rio Tinto FC had its own place in Zimbabwe’s Football Hall of Fame when it eventually took off as it played some enthralling football and won silverware at the same time producing some of the best players to emerge in the country.

Ziscosteel, the 1978 Castle Cup winners as Risco gave Zimbabwe one of its first national team coaches Paul Moyo and players like his son Benedict Moyo, James Takavada, Ephraim Dzimbiri, Njabulo Zulu, Frankson  Nyembere, Costa Matsikidze, Newman Bizeki, William Mutekesa, Victor Dliwayo, Jonathan Boriwondo and its sister club Lancashire Steel despite a short lived stay in elite football were good enough to win the 1999 Madison Trophy.

Their impact with stars like Stephen Sande, Simon Chipunza, Justice Majabvi, Washington Arubi, Luke Petros-Jukulile, Malvern Nyakabangwe,  Moses Mwafulirwa, Farai Vandira, Patrick Mandizha, Albert Mbano and Santiago Fetrigo over a decade did enough to remain in a lot of people’s memories.

That part of the Midlands was home to great Chamber of Mine legends like Jeffrey Masvanhise and the great sprinter Partson Muderedzi. The Mutize twins great names of the 1970s who started their careers as schoolboys at Matopo Mission in the late 1960s alongside communications guru Chemist Siziba, were powerful runners in the 400m and their races with the Magodo brothers,  Vuyani  Fulunga, Charles Mafika and 400m mines record holder from 1972 Adonb Treva was stuff for the legends. A fine crop of athletes denied an opportunity to run for their country at the Mexico, Munich and Montreal Olympics because of politics.

Gaths an asbestos mine was famed for its athletics nationally but some good talent in football came out of it with the most famous being Angirai Chapo and Francis Shonhayi who would go on to pick up medals at will with Dynamos the country’s most successful club. Both rose to be national team players.

Track cycling was also big at the mine and athletics too. Emmanuel Matashu a middle distances runner of note who specialised in the 1  500m race also came from the mine.

Whenever people speak about athletics names like Stephen Chikomo, a champion thrower, multi medal winner as a paralympian Elliot Mujaji, Julius Masvanhise, Kudakwashe Shoko, Samson Dube, George Majaji and Moven Pakarimwa’s names come to the fore. There is also Wilson Dube the 82-year-old cyclist who won many medals for the mine and created a legacy for the likes of Enock Phiri to emulate on both track cycling and on the road.

New managers and economic conditions have seen mine sport recede. In some cases, it has been a failure by management to attend to sports as a social corporate responsibility or part of a wellness campaign that promotes good health a key element to improved productivity.

The Great Dyke mines are still key to the future of Zimbabwe sport and at the moment a new promising to be a prominent feature is being birthed in football, the rise of the league favourites Ngezi  Platinum to a force to reckon with.  In the forseeable future, FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum look poised to dominate local football as they enjoy good sponsorship.

Share This: