Name change catapults Zimbabwe Cricket in to another crisis

Published: Friday, December 10, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Harare:In a move designed to bring down Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka and his 12-strong board of directors, the biggest province in the country is seeking a special general meeting to propose a motion of no confidence, an action which has led to the suspension of all domestic first-class cricket.

The Mashonaland Cricket Association, which supplies more than half the national team, has been angered by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union's decision to rebrand to "Zimbabwe Cricket", at a cost they estimate at 800 million Zimbabwe dollars (130,000 US dollars), without consulting the country's four provinces as required by the constitution.

However Chingoka hit back to say that a majority of the Mashonaland Cricket Board had voted against the statement which was issued on Thursday.

He said: "These individuals who gave a press conference were outside their mandate. We are suspicious they acted in this way to cloud the issues. Consideration is being given to suspend some of them in terms of the country's labour laws.

"They acted in this way to cloud the issues in an attempt to deflect the serious allegations of misconduct brought to our attention."

In a letter to his ZC board members and provincial chairmen, who had complained about proper procedures not being followed, Chingoka wrote: "It was always intended to formalise the rebranding with all the key stakeholders.

"The principle of rebranding had been approved by the board in 2002 but the exercise had been placed on hold due to cash constraints.

"In practice the exercise was rushed in order to capitalise on the England tour with necessary lead times for marketing activities."

The controversy threatens a split within Zimbabwe cricket similar to that caused by the sacking in April of former captain Heath Streak that eventually led to the axing of 15 white, mainly senior, players following a row over alleged racial bias in selection.

Nineteen of the 20 cricket clubs in Mashonaland called for the resignation of their own chairman Tavengwa Mukhlani, who stepped down with immediate effect.

Mukhlani, who was also on the Zimbabwe board, was blamed by them for "allowing such a thing (the rebranding) to happen."

The clubs wrote in their combined letter: "Under the constitution the change of name should have been debated at all levels, club and provincial, and the provincial chairmen should have been able to meet so as to ratify it. This did not happen."

Mashonaland is calling the special general meeting for two weeks time, possibly on December 22, in its bid to have the ZC board removed. "We will then begin negotiations for their resignations," Mashonaland board member Cyprian Mandenge told a media briefing here Thursday.

All first-class fixtures in Zimbabwe have been postponed, notably this weekend's National League matches. Only Mashonaland's own league matches will be played in the immediate future.

Mashonaland is also complaining that the 800 million Zimbabwe dollars could have been better spent on developing the game. Chingoka however disputed the estimate in his statement, saying it was 195 million.

Zimbabwe, who were suspended from Test cricket after two crushing defeats at home to Sri Lanka in May, are due to return to the five-day game in January with a series away to fellow strugglers Bangladesh.

Earlier this month they lost a one-day series at home to England 4-0 and have not beaten a leading team in a One-day International since back-to-back victories against the West Indies in November 2003. Their only wins since were against Bangladesh earlier this year.

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