How Cuthbert got it wrong first time

Cuthbert Dube
Cuthbert Dube

Sunday Shot with Goodwill Zunidza
Four years ago to this weekend, one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen Cuthbert Dube mounted the rostrum of a leading Harare school to deliver a keenly-awaited victory speech that promised Zimbabwean football heaven on earth.
In the run-up to that big day, Dube had blazed a most unforgettable trail, touching every corner of the country and sweeping every football-loving person off their feet with a high-sounding manifesto many agreed would be the panacea to Zimbabwe’s unending football maladies.

The outcome in that 2010 election was emphatic, the bespectacled medical aid boss annihilating his only rival Leslie Gwindi by 29 votes to a mere four and everyone seated in that packed theatre auditorium at Prince Edward nodded, smiled and clapped as the winner was escorted to the centre-stage to take what seemed to be his rightful place.

An entire nation, with the expected exception of a precious few, reverberated with mirth in the fanciful hope that indeed the former Buymore FC proprietor would show himself to be the anticipated Messiah.

But what happened next is now a subject of this narration as Dube’s end of term report reveals the stark opposite of what he pledged to fulfil. The half-a-million debt his administration inherited and promised to wipe out has in fact spiralled to half-a-dozen million and the Zifa headquarters that was primed for a facelift has by reverse been defaced. More still, the Warriors have qualified for neither the World Cup nor African Cup of Nations.

So where did Dube, a renowned business strategist and financial wizard who masterminded the rise of a struggling medical aid society into one of Africa’s leading corporate entities, fail? The answer will never be simple but here is a take.

Affable though he is, and with hordes of football experience tucked under his armpit, Dube was a victim of the shortcomings of his very administration.

The withdrawal, through suspension, of technocrats in the Zifa board such as retired Fifa referee Kenny Marange and title-winning coach Methembe Ndlovu and the further expulsion of Champions League exponent Solomon Mugavazi, no doubt created a deficit of football ideas that would haunt his first term of office.

Of course, just as nothing is ever all black, or all white, Dube did score some notable goals. His clampdown on corruption in football was a celebrated success as it managed to significantly reduce the magnitude of match-fixing through the Asiagate persecutions that netted scores of other interested and entrusted individuals, over and above the foregoing trio.

Lethargy by the Zifa’s secretariat, led by Jonathan Mashingaidze who played hide and seek with Fifa whose assistance they sought to extend the sanctions they meted to take worldwide effect, ensured, however, that the otherwise noble exercise was fraught with bungling.

But the warning it sent to football practitioners was chilling. Subsequent to the Asiagate purge was born a revived domestic scene that produced a highly exhilarating soccer season culminating in a fairy-tale run by the locally-based Warriors at Chan in Cape Town where they reached the knock-out stage of a continental competition for the first time and put icing on the cake by storming into the last four.

In all these escapades the Zifa secretariat was always found wanting at best or yawning at worst. If they were not abandoning the team in a chaotically-organised camp then they were messing with the coach. Reproachable as that was, it still went without reprimand. That alone would be recipe for disaster as Dube should have smelt. But advice from reputed football figures like Ashford Mamelodi – to mention but one   – all signalling the necessity of acquiring a new broom for the Zifa office, was least heeded when it was most needed.

And under such circumstances sponsorship was destined to stay away, thus becoming the bane of Dube’s first four years at the crease of Zimbabwe football.

Here is to another four, but may they be more prosperous than the first.

Goodwill Zunidza is the Sports Editor of The Sunday Mail. You can interact on his Facebook wall Nunu Palmer or write directly to him on [email protected]

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