Inside sport: Where are you minister Coventry?

Minister of Sports Kirsty Coventry is well aware of this model which is spread all over the world and despite her travels and the availability of office space in Zimbabwe, she has not taken the time to assist the struggling local national associations with a place to operate from.

When President Emmerson Mnangagwa on September 7, 2018, appointed Kirsty Coventry as minister of Sport, there was this feeling that for the first time, Zimbabwean sport was now in the hands of a capable driver.

There was this strong countrywide belief that Africa’s most decorated Olympian in history would turn around the sports industry which had suffered over the years due to government neglect.

As a much travelled and Zimbabwe's most successful sportsperson, it was expected that Coventry would be in a position to knock into the sense of the Zimbabwean government the importance of sport and the need to invest in this most popular industry.

Sport had over the period been entrusted in the hands of politicians starting off with Joice Mujuru at the turn of independence in 1980, and passing through the hands of David Kwidini, Aeneas Chigwedere, Paul Mavhima, Makhosini Hlongwane, and Raymond Kazembe Kazembe.

The judgment was that most of these appointees came from different sectors which were far much detached from sport and as a result they did not have a clue as to what exactly was required to make sport a success.

In Coventry, the sports family envisaged a saviour who had achieved everything that sport offered including seven Olympic medals, two of them gold, and eight World Championship medals, three of them also gold.

In Coventry, who at that time was a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission, Zimbabweans saw a true leader who could change the government’s long held negative attitude towards sport.

Sadly, though, despite her achievements that read like a military roll of honour, Coventry seems to have failed to steer the Zimbabwean sports ship as had been widely expected.

As her term goes past six years, most of the sporting associations still do not have offices and operate from the boots of their cars when the sports ministry itself has offices at the National Sports Stadium which they are renting out.

Yet the Chinese when they built the stadium, it was along the model of what is in their country where the offices of the athletics association are next to those of the basketball union with the other associations following in that queue.

Coventry is well aware of this model which is spread all over the world and despite her travels and the availability of office space in Zimbabwe, she has not taken the time to assist the struggling local national associations with a place to operate from.

In fact, upon reflection, the truth is that five years after Coventry’s appointment, the same old problems remain and in some cases, the situation has grown even worse than before she came on board.

It will long be remembered that it was during Coventry’s tenure that the National Sports Stadium was banned from hosting international football after her ministry failed to make renovations to the facility despite countless warnings from Caf.

It is even saddening that for the past six years, Coventry has repeatedly promised that the stadium would be worked on, but up to now, nothing has been done and the state of the stadium is deteriorating further.

It will also be recorded in history that it was during Coventry’s reign that Zimbabwe was banned from international football after she failed to resolve in time what looked like a simple football matter.

It will also be remembered that it was during her reign as sports minister that Zimbabwe performed the worst at the Olympic Games with none of the country's athletes reaching the final at the 2020 Games.

Surely, that team came back empty handed due to inadequate preparations caused by the non-availability of funds as the government could not fund their international participation in the run up to the games in Tokyo.

Coventry, just like the others before her, has been good in making promises but has delivered little to the extent that even the much promised funding for national associations is still to reach their doors since 2018.

For those not in the know, Coventry met all the national sporting associations soon after her appointment to find out their requirements and was plainly told that their needs were purely financial.

Even after that, Zimbabwe sports teams continue to withdraw from major international competitions due to lack of funds with the government failing to add to what the associations themselves have raised.

The Zimbabwe Davis Cup team, the athletics team and many others out there, begging for outside funding when their own government is as Dennis Brown sang, ‘sitting and watching’.

In all this, Coventry should be reminded that 2024 is another Olympic Year and the minister should be focusing on how best she can help the athletes to achieve their best instead of sitting in the office working out on how many government officials would be accompanying the Olympic team to Paris.

With that in mind, Zimbabwean sport wants to see some action from the minister even with the limited time left, and more importantly, to see funding percolating to those who need it.

After all, Coventry will be asked what her major achievements were after she finally leaves office — and what will she say?

 *For your views, comments and suggestions [email protected] or WhatsApp on 0773 266 776

Related Topics