17 November 2005.
Peter Roebuck on why those running cricket in Zimbabwe have got to be swept aside.
Evil does not know its name. Tatenda Taibu has been forced to flee his home. After holding his tongue through numerous abuses of power committed by the Zanu-PF heavies running cricket in his country, Zimbabwe’s captain joined 73 fellow players in signing a document attacking ZC’s ruling clique. Showing almost reckless courage, the youngster also addressed the issue at a press conference. The rest was inevitable and demands the immediate and uncompromising attention of the game’s governing body.
No sooner had Taibu made his feelings known than the immature thugs destroying that country set out to silence him. Not that Taibu’s voice was heard in his own country. Of course the usual mouthpieces defended the usual suspects, namely the managing director Ozias Bvute and his chairman Peter Chingoka. Fortunately many brave souls remain in that desperate country, not least priests, lawyers and journalists, and most particularly Cricinfo’s man on the spot.
Accordingly, Taibu’s intervention and its consequences reached a wider audience. No sooner had his protest been made than a phone call was received from a nasty little man connected both with the illegitimate government and the cricket board (which are interchangeable). So threatening was the call, so sinister were the implications that Taibu and his wife packed their bags, left their homes and decamped to a hotel before moving again to join friends.
Taibu is no pushover. He is a tough, courageous competitor prepared to stand his ground against allcomers. He considered joining Heath Streak and colleagues in their recent stand against the arrogance and racism that had become entrenched at ZC. Two things stopped him. He knew that frustration had been building amongst the senior players but also understood the need to encourage black players. He had learned the game the hard way, in hot, bare fields and in the hands of a coach who beat him whenever he missed a practice.
As a proud Zimbabwean he knew that many others yearned for opportunity. As a young man he wanted to believe. He wanted to represent his country, to create laughter and joy. ‘When we win,’ he said, ‘I see a lot of smiling faces.’ he knew about the suffering and thought about the relief. Hoping that better days lay ahead, he accepted the captaincy and ever since has done his utmost to maintain standards. To his credit he was mentioned as a candidate for the World XI. All he expected from his board was honesty, respect and encouragement. None has been forthcoming.
Outwardly Taibu and his 73 peers were complaining about issues that concern players, such as contracts and safety. It was the timing not the content of their protest that upset the villains. A fierce battle has broken out in Zimbabwean cricket between the Board in the persons of Bvute, Chingoka and cronies, and the six provinces whose representatives argue that ‘ZC faces a crisis of legitimacy which calls into question its leadership and transparency as the custodians of the game.’ They want Bvute and Chingoka to stand down pending an independent audit of the accounts.
ZC’s response to this challenge has been breathtaking in its arrogance. Bvute and Chingoka have threatened to create five ghost provinces and to put their most intemperate Zanu PF pals at their helm. Unable to convince any responsible patriot of their legitimacy, they have turned towards poseurs fuelled by destruction and jealousy. Isolated in their office, eager to retain their luxurious lifestyles, they cling to power like leeches to bodies. And, to think, Chingoka was once a decent man.
Although honourable in their intentions, Streak and company played their parts in their own downfall. They appointed an adolescent lawyer and argued the wrong case. The ICC did its best by sending experienced jurists to investigate the matter but their appointees were useless. The rebels had a point but the white population of Rhodesia created its own tyrannies and some ground had to be conceded. Now the situation could not be more clearcut. Now the monster is devouring its own. Taibu is black, patriotic, intelligent, independent. Not so easy to cast him as a stooge. His is the true voice of Zimbabwean cricket.
Governance has long been the main problem facing the ICC. It cannot involve itself in every dispute or else it would constantly be fighting court cases in India or confronting corruption in Sri Lanka. Nor can the ICC ignore the viciousness that has become the hallmark of the ZC. Bvute and Chingoka must be removed from office. Cricket cannot have such men on its payroll, cannot put the hopes and dreams of youngsters in their hands. The game is up. In the name of God, go.