from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – SOUTH Africa’s overwhelming accomplishments in the arts and sports on the international stage has put pressure on neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Part of the blame has been heaped on Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry.
Despite her being the most decorated Olympian from Africa, the holder of seven medals heads a ministry that has struggled to revive Zimbabwe’s fortunes.
Across the Limpopo River, South Africa on the other hand is in a good space lately. Artists have been winning international accolades such as Grammys and Oscars, the latest being musician, Tyla, who won a Grammy for Best African Music Performance last weekend.
The country’s senior men football team, Bafana Bafana, has also enjoyed a successful run in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast.
The elite rugby team, the Springboks, have won the World Cup back-to-back.
Fadzayi Mahere, the Zimbabwean opposition legislator for the now defunct Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), has taken Coventry to task reminding that Zimbabwe does not have a functional stadium in which to play or host international soccer matches.
“We have been forced into the embarrassing position where we have to play international matches ‘at home’ in Rwanda,” Mahere said.
“So tragic is the crisis in sport that we were not surprised when there was no showing for Zimbabwe’s national soccer team at AFCON.”
Zimbabwe was disqualified from the tournament because of government interference in sport, conduct which no matter justifiable, the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) frowns upon.
Most Zimbabweans, especially those that have sought refuge in South Africa, have been supporting the neighbouring country at the AFCON but some South Africans have on social media urged the Zimbabweans to “support your national team, not ours.”
“Coming to the arts, the crisis is just as bad, if not worse,” Mahere argued.
“Ask yourself (Coventry) when was the last time a Zimbabwean artist won a Grammy?” she asked the minister.
“Why are our artists having to pander to dodgy politics and dark characters in order to drive a decent car? Is their desperation not enough to break your heart?”
This is a veiled reference to Wicknell Chivayo, a wealthy businessman linked to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (PF). He has been on a spree to gift local musicians lavish cars.
A man of good taste, Chivayo has gifted the popular musicians the highest class of Mercedes, which they accept without qualms despite criticism from government opponents.
As artists battle the harsh economic climate, critics believe this move by the entrepreneur is part of a ploy to attract the musicians’ supporters to ZANU-PF.
Coventry is not a member of the party but President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed her to his cabinet after his first term commenced in 2018 because of her decorated career as a swimmer.
“Throughout your tenure, national sports teams including soccer and cricket have been periodically banned from international events,” Mahere assessed of Coventry’s performance.
“Grassroots sports development is effectively at a standstill. Schools’ sport is not as regionally or continentally competitive as it once was. Our sporting infrastructure is in a sad state of dilapidation and neglect.”
Zizi Kodwa, Coventry’s colleague in South Africa, is having his time in the sun as national teams and the country’s artists shine on the international stage.
Zimbabwe’s waning fortunes in this space have been partly blamed on the economic challenges the Southern African country has been facing for more than two decades.
Critics blame corruption by ZANU-PF for the economic decline, but the ruling party, which has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980, attribute the malaise to the former coloniser and its allies after the country repossessed land from the white minority farmers in 2000.
While sport and arts have brought solace to South Africans amid economic challenges, for Zimbabweans, the decline in these sectors mean they have almost nothing to find comfort in as economic and political problems mount.
– CAJ News