Cricket and Zimbabwe: The darkest hour

Rarely do journalists really let rip in print, so it was a delight to read Peter Roebuck’s broadside against the ICC for its lame tackling of the mess that is Zimbabwe cricket on the Cricinfo website.

Its new leadership has shown itself to be spineless, amoral, unprincipled, shallow, self-centred, ill-informed and contemptible. No game that hopes to retain even a modicum of a standing in the wider community can so abjectly bow to despotism.

Of course there never was any point expecting anything except pathetic kowtowing from Ray Mali, a compromised and unworthy president of the ICC. His emptiness was exposed long ago, in the Transkei, before the fall of a system he was supposed to despise. It was documented at the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings. Nor is there anything to be gained from dwelling upon Norman Arendse, chairman of CSA, a third-rate occupant of an important position. His rise has been due not to courage or character but to an ability to sniff the wind.

And then Roebuck turned his sights on Peter Chingoka and Ozias Bvute, the bosses of Zimbabwe Cricket who have enriched themselves with the cash paid to Zimbabwe by the ICC.

These men reflect their times. Make no mistake, they are Zanu-PF loyalists in sheep’s clothing. Chingoka is a particularly nasty but of work. He has friends in very high places, enjoys the protection of the vice-president and her militarist husband. He has grown fat as others starve. As pitches go unprepared and grass grows high, he has bought property in London, built a house in Cape Town, invested heavily in companies, and generally made a fortune in a bankrupt land. Although charming when he chooses to be, his bitter, rampant racism has shocked even Zimbabwean politicians, not to mention ICC officials. Of course, that has not stopped his inexorable rise at the ICC.

Cunning to the core, Chingoka has done deals with the BCCI, and votes for it at every opportunity. India owes him “big time”. Like his mentor and master Robert Mugabe, he knows how to play his cards, talking about colonialism and intransigent whites, spreading rumours when it suits him. He is a pitiful figure who will not survive the return of democracy and the rule of law to his country, should that happy day ever dawn.

Contrastingly, Bvute is the type that appears when there is easy money to be made, the sort that also knows when to jump ship. Nowadays his family lives in New York. Not so long ago, in a brief period under a cloud, Bvute was able to transfer a large sum of money to them. He has also bought a mansion in Harare, a purchase assisted by cricketing forces. Mostly, he throws his weight around in an attempt to cower the dispirited youth team representing the nation (which team managed to finish as high as second last in a recent domestic competition in South Africa). He also seeks to control the media.

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