Coltart averse to criticism
HARARE – In my view, Education, Sports, Arts and Culture minister David Coltart, fits perfectly into William Shakespeare’s statement that: “there is no art to find minds construction in the face; he was a gentleman on whom I had built an absolute trust”.
Simplified the Shakespearean statement, in Macbeth, means that you can’t tell what a person is thinking by merely looking at their face, nor create trust based on that.
I had never met Coltart until 2009, days after the formation of the inclusive government, when I saw him driving off from his ministry’s offices near Ambassador hotel.
Nothing was particularly striking about him — maybe because I did not think he was the man who could pluck our education system from its hole and bring sound policies to our arts and sporting institutions.
At the end of that same week I met Coltart, my ambivalent view of him was re-enforced when I read his first newspaper article since becoming minister — an article on cricket in which he promised to “clean the mess” in that sport.
For me, this was a bad way of introducing himself, especially having been fighting the Peter Chingoka board for re-organising the game to allow black players into mainstream cricket.
Although the minister wanted to flex his muscles and cow the Zimbabwe Cricket chiefs, his plans remained in abeyance until his recent desperate attempt to cause mayhem and reverse the gains made in this sport — through a directive aimed at destabilising the sport by sidelining competent black people from being national team selectors.
I offer no apology for saying all this because Coltart has fought journalists, both from the State and independent media, using a tired line that we have all allegedly joined the politics of Zanu PF.
The fact that one Jonathan Moyo has raised these very same sentiments — that resonate with those enamoured with cricket — should not, in itself, dissuade us from writing about them simply because they have been raised by a Zanu PF member.
But Coltart clearly thinks that if you are the Daily News you have to pander to the whims of those in the opposition. And he is not alone on this.
If truth be told, there is a growing and maddening number of officials from both formations of the MDC who think that they can use and abuse those of us in the independent media as their lapdogs.
Well, that is a pipe dream — as we are nobody’s lackeys!
Still, this is probably the reason why Coltart recently went on his Facebook wall and expressed his disappointment with the way the independent media had handled the racism storm, torched by his directive which was swiftly amended in the aftermath of the ensuing public outrage.
This was also soon after the Daily News had carried an interview with the ZC managing director — Wilfred Mukondiwa — in which he spelt out his vision and plans for cricket in the short to medium term.
As is now known on the record, Mukondiwa told the Daily News that Coltart’s directive had the potential to derail cricket – and reverse the gains made in the last decade.
For those readers who are not au fait with Coltart’s directive, it reads: “All national sport associations whose national team selection is conducted by national selectors shall ensure that such selectors have the requisite experience and skills. In particular, no person shall be appointed as a selector unless they have represented Zimbabwe in the particular sport”.
Reasonable on the face of it, but highly problematic in fact and substance.
No wonder that the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), has moved to amend the contentious clauses.
In the meantime, the ZC board contends that the amendments are still of no effect and that they are in fact illegal because there has been no board (SRC) resolution endorsing them.
Part of the watered down amendments read: “Not less than fifty percent (50 percent) of the selectors shall have represented Zimbabwe as athletes/players at the senior level in the particular sport discipline provided that all chairpersons/convenors shall be former national team players/athletes.
“Where a national sports association has a single selector, the incumbent must be a former national team player/athlete in that discipline. Non-former national team players/ athletes on the selection panel shall have coaching experience or some technical expertise in the particular sport discipline”.
The nub of the issue here is that those who have witnessed the revolution in cricket suspect that Coltart wants to reverse the gains that have been made in the sport, whose growing mass appeal is testament to the participation of Zimbabweans — at all levels — in that sport.
Indeed, one of the major goals of ZC is to offer equal opportunities to all people in cricket and to spread the game.
I guess, all this is a mere recognition of the fact that the sustainability of any activity sport in any country is dependent on the involvement of the majority of the people in that country, and this is what has been happening in Zimbabwean cricket.
“The focus now is on improving the quality of all facets of the game at all levels. Through the franchise system launched in 2009 we have spread cricket to all corners of Zimbabwe. There are now over 1000 young men, black and white, who can be classified as professional full-time cricketers – an increase of almost 80 percent,” Mukondiwa told this writer two weeks ago.
But for Coltart this was a bitter pill to swallow. He, ridiculously, then went on to cast aspersions on my professionalism.
My sins? Being the bearer of bad news for him.
He sent me this angry message: “I am surprised that you have written such a biased report on cricket.
You say the majority are opposed to this. Have you spoken to a single player about what they think?
Are you are aware of the fear that pervades the players? You know that there are several black ex-players more than willing and capable to be a convener of selectors? I know because they have spoken to me — and by a 3 to 1 margin they are black players. You have done your profession and cricket a huge disservice.
As a journalist where is the balance in your story?”
The Guthrie Munyuki Interview, which featured Mukondiwa, is known for bringing to readers big name characters every Thursday — to offer insights on different topics.
These interviews are not commentary, so why blame the messenger?
I would have expected Coltart to challenge the issues raised in the interview, as well as the claim that his directive could reverse the gains made in cricket thus far.
Not play the man, nope — the messenger!
By the way, and as an aside, does anyone still remember that Coltart was linked by former cricket captain Andy Flower as one of the people who conceived the idea of wearing black armbands during the 2003 World Cup tournament in South Africa.
That message read: “Although we are just professional cricketers, we do have a conscience and feelings. We believe that if we remain silent that will be taken as a sign that either we do not care or we condone what is happening in Zimbabwe. We believe that it is important to stand up for what is right. In doing so we are making a silent plea to those responsible to stop the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe.”
Coltart has, as is his right, not denied being part to this — even though he now expects everyone to agree with him on what is evidently not good either for local cricket or for Zimbabwe for that matter.
How indeed does he expect people to believe that he has national interests at heart?
And he wants the media, including the Daily News, to portray him as a righteous man who is at the receiving end of ZC officials.
Here is my five cents worth of advice for you Minister Coltart.
Yes, you do have a right to have your say on anything, as is the case with every other Zimbabwean.
But for Pete’s sake you now hold a very high public office as our minister.
This should ordinarily mean taking the good with the bad — and not displaying such a childish, thin skin.
Yes David, the same Daily News that you think is against you now is the same one that has given you a good performance rating when the newspaper assesses the performance of ministers at the end of each year. We have never heard you complaining about these ratings.
Does this imply that you only expect praise from us?
The sad think here is that in the four years that Coltart has been minister, there has been rapid progress in cricket driven by the same board he had hoped would fall by the wayside once he sorted out the “mess”.
Yes Zimbabwe is not playing Test cricket but as the ZC has said, development is not an event but a process.
Development programmes, including school leagues, school festivals and tournaments, inter-franchise age group tournaments, trials, coaching camps and national age group tours, are now in place.
I had expected Coltart to dispute these facts not to attack me for publishing them. That is what sane, balanced and confident leaders do.
Meanwhile, and in another staggering development involving the minister — it is as clear as day that the substantial support given to education by donor agencies, including the 22 million textbooks, has come to naught.
Results released last week by the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) showed that 81,6 percent of the 172 698 who sat for ‘O’ level examinations failed to pass at least five subjects with grade C or better.
Naturally, our swift-tongued minister has found a reason to celebrate in the dismal performances — saying the 18,4 percent pass rate recorded last year is the best.
That is utterly astonishing!
Was this man forced to be in government and in this portfolio?
I rest my case.