New Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry hits ground running

HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING . . . Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry is seen here welcoming Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani to her offices.
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JUST days after she was sworn in, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry has wasted no time in getting down to business with the swimming legend meeting leaders of the country’s two biggest associations  ZIFA and Zimbabwe Cricket at her offices.

The minister, flanked by her deputy, Yeukai Simbanegavi, and permanent secretary, Prince Mupazviriwo, said the meetings with ZIFA and ZC were the first of a series of such interactions she would be holding with sports associations, youth organisations, the arts and recreational sectors.

Coventry told the The Herald that she intends to formulate the right policies to drive the turnaround that sport has been crying out for after interacting with the associations and establishing the situation on the ground.

The legendary Olympian said there was no time to waste as she has already begun consultations with key pillars in the Ministry of Sport and on Wednesday she met with the Sport and Recreation board.

She said she is also looking to engage other stakeholders in the youth, arts and recreation sectors.

The minister yesterday hosted the ZIFA leadership, led by Association president Philip Chiyangwa, who was accompanied by board member finance Philemon Machana, chief executive Joseph Mamutse and legal advisor Itai Ndudzo.

Before engaging ZIFA, she had also met the ZC entourage comprising their chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani, acting managing director Givemore Makoni, head of corporate affairs Nesta Vaki and consultant Vince van der Bijl.

Coventry said she had an understanding of what has been happening, especially in sport where she has a strong background, but had sought “much deeper explanations from the responsible officials”.

“What we have been focusing on in the last few days is getting debriefs from all the teams and the different pillars from the youth, sport, art and recreation.”

Mukuhlani was happy with the meeting and said his association, which has been reeling under huge debts and challenges on-and-off the field, clarified their position to the new minister.

“I can say we have had a very good meeting with the minister. This being the first one, obviously, it was more of a familiarisation meeting since the minister is still new.

“It was all about trying to understand more about the sport and I am sure it’s part of the wider consultations that will take place with all the associations.

“Obviously cricket, being the second biggest (sport) in the country, it was not surprising they would start with us. The minister wanted us to give a background of how cricket is structured locally and globally.

“We discussed various issues and we also explained our position as an association with regards to where we stand financially and on cricket issues.

“We talked about our vision and how we function as an association. We also briefed the minister about the challenges we are facing.

“As a matter of importance, we also had to explain to the minister the real situation obtaining with regards to cricket in Zimbabwe because there has been a lot of things said on social media,” Mukuhlani said.

Mukuhlani said they are hoping for better days under the guidance of Coventry.

“We want a definite Sport Policy, a strategic plan from the ministry that will guide the associations to say this is what we want as Zimbabwe and this is how we want it done.

“As national associations, our strategies will then dovetail into the national master plan and once that happens everything else flows naturally towards our desired goals.

“We also want an active interaction with the ministry.

“I am sure we will not miss the point if we get briefing from time to time with our Government,” said Mukuhlani.

“ZIFA warmly welcomes the appointment of the new minister. The current leadership undertakes to unequivocally work with the ministry and complement all ministry policies, programmes and directives in a way that seeks to develop the sport industry in the country.

“ZIFA will always be available at short notice to engage with the parent ministry whenever called to do so. It is ZIFA’s plea that the Honourable minister will continue on this path of this participatory leadership in resolving all challenges bedevilling our sport,” Chiyangwa said.

The ZIFA and COSAFA president said their indaba with Coventry and her deputy had also been wide-ranging and touched on issues pertaining to the association’s operations, governance and links with international bodies such as FIFA and CAF.

“The meeting went well and it appears that the minister and her deputy were in a hearing mode allowing us to extensively present on the state of football in Zimbabwe.

“The presentation covered governance, financial requirements, competitions, relationship with FIFA, challenges and recommendations from ZIFA to the minister on the association’s expectations from Government,” Chiyangwa said.

He said they also appraised the Minister of the strained relationship between ZIFA and the Sports Commission.

“The current ZIFA leadership has immensely benefited from the advisory role the ministry has been playing ever since it came into office. The only challenges have been from the regulatory board (Sports Commission) which seem to be on a mission to fight the association.

“Such efforts have even grown louder in 2018, in the elective year of ZIFA, and the suspicion within the football community is this may be deliberately aimed at influencing the desired outcome of some within the SRC.

“ZIFA believes that there has, of late, been undue influence in the affairs of the association which FIFA dislike and frowns upon.”