The Sunday Mail
Ishemunyoro Chingwere recently in Redcliff
For a town that gave birth to Zimbabwe national and international sports stars, one would expect budding talent to be on display in any of the sports clubs littered across the Midlands mining town of Redcliff.
But alas, on this particular visit, a church service was all that the Alan Lowry Golf Club could offer on a sunny Sunday afternoon with absolutely no sporting activity going on, except an English Premiership match on television which was being watched by the bar lady and just one patron she had for the afternoon.
Not even the almost free subscription of $5 a month can lure sports people to the sports club as the collapse of their source of livelihood, Zisco Steel, now New Zimsteel, takes its toll on their daily activities.
Retired athlete and now track judge, Irene Dzimbiri, who has over two decades of experience in athletics, says partaking in sporting activities is now a fantasy for the people of Redcliff whose preoccupation is where they can possibly get their next meal.
“Sport?” Dzimbiri answers with a question when asked which sporting activities are going on in the town.
“We can no longer afford such luxuries here. There is absolutely nothing of that sought going on. The only place you will find people doing that is in schools where the curriculum makes it mandatory for pupils to do sport.
“The collapse of Zisco has reduced that (sporting activities) to a luxury,” said Dzimbiri who adds that the town co-ordinated efforts and held a prayer on the 24th of January for the revival of New Zimsteel.
As Dzimbiri points a gloomy sporting picture, former Zimbabwe international defence stalwart and now Footballers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general, Paul Gundani, reminisces on the good that Redcliff was.
“With a firm foundation premised on the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines, this town used to be a cradle of Zimbabwe’s sporting excellence. There was no national team, be it football, athletics, javelin or rugby which could represent this country without people from Redcliff.
“Footballers like Benedict Moyo, Javelin champion Lee Waters, Olympian track athlete Partson Muderedzi, athletes Cynthia Phiri and Cheneso Jack are some of the examples of people who shot not only to national but international fame thanks to Zisco’s launch pad.
“But all this is now mere folktale and dreams of a repeat or fostering more national heroes have been dashed by the death of Zisco,” said Gundani.
1988 Olympian Partson Muderedzi who also represented the country in the African Athletics Championships in Egypt as well the 1982 Commonwealth games in Brisbane, Australia, is at pains at the failure to impart some of the experiences he has with the youngsters due to the current bottlenecks in sport development.
What further hurts Muderedzi is that he trained as a coach in Kenya and Australia under Zimbabwe Olympic Committee programmes but has not had the opportunity to work with upcoming athletes.
“My heart bleeds with the current situation here. I am one person who is available to help develop sport anytime but the problem we face is that there are no resources.
“Talent is going down to waste here in Redcliff because there are no competitions to polish what we have. The problem, however, isn’t peculiar to Redcliff, even on the national stage all those that made a name in sport like us are stifled out.
“It’s the sad reality that we have, I really do not know for how long this will continue but the honest truth is we have to find a way of saving our sport for the sake of our children and other generations to come.
“This country is blessed with immensely talented youngsters but they need to be nurtured or else we will continue sliding into sporting oblivion internationally,” said Muderedzi.
The ineffectiveness has not only put a dearth on the fostering of sporting heroes but also seen sporting facilities such as Zisco Club, Torwood and Rutendo Stadiums turning into eye sores.
Muderedzi feels sports governing associations have not done justice to the deteriorating facilities in the mining town which he says if taken good care of can be used for camping purposes.
The problem, according to Muderedzi, is that many associations don’t even know of the existence of such facilities as they have little or no history with the sporting disciplines they are leading, having frozen out former athletes out of their systems.
The common denominator in the conversation one has with any Redcliff resident is “an appeal to Government to come to our rescue and resuscitate the ailing giant New Zimsteel and return the ghost town to its former glory.”