Politicians throughout the world never hide their penchant to be associated with sport. This is largely because sport means power, wealth, free publicity and nearness to the populace.
BY ALBERT MARUFU
However, sports personalities rarely use their power to join the “dirty” world of politics.
Former World Player of the Year George Opong Weah tried in 2005 when he formed the Congress for Democratic Change, to contest for the 2005 presidential elections in Liberia.
Weah eventually lost to the “educated” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after a run-off. In Zimbabwe, the forthcoming harmonised elections have seen a surge in the number of sports personalities seeking the political office and are set to contest in the Zanu PF primary elections.
The list includes former Premier Soccer League chairman Tapiwa Matangaidze (Shurugwi South House of Assembly), former Dynamos secretary general Raymond Kazembe (Mazowe West House of Assembly) and the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Woman Football Mavis Gumbo.
Dynamos chairman Keni Mubaiwa could not make it through to the primaries, after being barred by his party, despite showing an interest in the Seke constituency and the same fate befell former Zifa chief executive officer Henrietta Rushwaya.
In Matabeleland, Zanu PF is reported to have tried without success to lure Peter Ndlovu into contesting for the Makokoba constituency.
Though former Zifa chairman Leo Mugabe was the trendsetter at the turn of the millennium, many attributed his political ascendency to his family name.
Mugabe, a former Zifa strongman, successfully contested for the Makonde constituency.
Questions are being raised as to what has been the pulling factor for these sports personalities to enter the dirty world of politics, especially ours that is littered with violence.
Kazembe, a former Dynamos secretary general who is battling with seven other candidates for the Mazowe West constituency in Zanu PF primaries, said his experience at Dynamos helped him realise that he can help his community at a higher level.
“I just want to help develop the area that I grew up in. If you are successful in an area, people will always look up to you. I was born and bred in Concession and have helped in a number of projects before,” he said.
“Some elders who saw what I had done at Dynamos, asked me why I did not want to do the same for my constituency? I am a results oriented person and if I win the seat, I will just serve for five years,” said Kazembe.
Matangaidze, who was also the owner of Kadoma Wildcats, said there is a thin line between politics and sport administration.
“I have always been involved with both football and politics even when I was the PSL chairman. It is just that I am now involved with politics at a higher level than sport. My interest is to serve the country, in the same way that I did through sport. To me it is like a calling. ,” said the former PSL boss.
Mubaiwa, who was eyeing the Seke constituency before being barred by his party said; “There is so much politics in football and that influences one to go for the big one.”
Rushwaya, who in 2011 was expelled from Zifa for allegedly fixing matches withdrew from contesting for the Gutu senatorial seat 48 hours after forwarding her CV for consideration.
Mugabe, who successfully contested for the Makonde constituency in 2000, said the power that people enjoy in sport motivates them to seek political office at a higher level.
“There is so much power which comes with leading an association or a sport institution. That is when one decides to join politics,” he said.
Mugabe however, warned prospective legislators that political administration and sport are totally different entities.
“I was busier when I was the Zifa chairman than when I got to Parliament. In sport it’s your responsibility to make sure that a match is fulfilled, while as a Member of Parliament you wait for the government to implement your ideas. When coming from a sporting background, you will think that it is very easy only to realise when you are there that you do not control anything,” he said with a chuckle.
“My message to those who are coming from a sports administration background is not to expect too much because they will be disappointed”.