The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
THE fallout between Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and national team coach Heath Streak has been one poorly handled saga.
Just how can a labour matter between an employer and an employee get so ugly with attempts to overthrow the constitutionally elected ZC board and threats of lawsuits?
It all started when ZC gave Streak and his technical team an ultimatum to resign on 30 March or consider themselves fired. This was after Zimbabwe failed to qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup in painful circumstances with defeat to United Arab Emirates.
While other members of the technical team resigned from their positions, Streak, batting coach Lance Klusener and fitness trainer Sean Bell refused to step down. Instead, the trio engaged a lawyer to challenge ZC’s decision. Because of the technicality related to the firing, ZC subsequently rehired the three last Monday before they again sacked them on the same day. A report in our sister paper, The Herald yesterday indicated that Streak is still challenging his sacking by ZC with his lawyers instructing the cricket mother body not to appoint a new coach because their client claims that his dismissal was unprocedural and unlawful.
Instead of negotiating to get the best out of the remaining seven months of his contract, Streak seemed to be riding on the sympathy shown to him by social media users with the hope that the ZC board will be dissolved by the Government. All those hopes were extinguished after the ZC board last Wednesday met the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Raymond Kazembe as well as the Sports and Recreation Commission.
A group led by United Kingdom-based former first class player Patrick Gada has also been pushing for the ouster of the ZC board. Part of the group members, one of them being Norton Member of Parliament Temba Mliswa met Kazembe to present evidence which they believed was good enough for the Tavengwa Mukuhlani chaired board to be dissolved.
It, however, appears that the Government will not disband the ZC board, in fact any action by Minister Kazembe will result in Zimbabwe’s membership suspended by the International Cricket Council. This is something that former Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart has not bothered to tell the thousands of his followers on Twitter. International sports associations do not tolerate Government interference in sports, they are all the same, be it Fifa, ICC or World Rugby.
Last year, when the SRC suspended the Zimbabwe Rugby Union leadership of Nyararai Sibanda, World Rugby responded by slashing Zimbabwe’s grant. The day Government dissolves the ZC board, ICC will simply suspend the country’s membership and that would be the end of cricket in this country.
Mukuhlani said Kazembe instead instructed ZC to launch a Commission of Inquiry into Zimbabwe’s match against UAE. ZC are convinced that the result of that crucial match could have been manipulated.
“It’s a labour dispute, his lawyers and our lawyers are handling this matter so we will not comment much. Instead, the Minister has instructed us to launch a Commission of Inquiry into that match against UAE because something just doesn’t add up,’’ Mukuhlani said.
As the saga rages on, Streak is threatening to hit Mukuhlani with a lawsuit for stating that the coach informed the white players a night before the UAE match that Peter Moor was playing while Cephas Zhuwao was only informed that he had been dropped while he was warming up on the day of the crucial clash. Streak is mulling suing Mukuhlani on the basis that his statement has been construed to mean that the former national team captain is a racist.
If Streak, who maintains that he is still a ZC employee goes ahead with his lawsuit against Mukuhlani, it is just difficult to see how relations will be should he be allowed to continue until the expiry of his contract in October. Time will tell how this tale will go on and how it will come to an end. One thing for sure is that this has been a poorly handled saga with plenty blunders made by both parties. [email protected]_29