Zimbabwe: Country Faces Athletics Isolation

ZIMBABWE is heading for athletics isolation.The International Athletics Associations Federation (IAAF) yesterday gave Zimbabwe until tomorrow to hold elections or risk being banned by the world athletics governing body.

In a telephone interview from Monaco, France, Nicky Davies, the IAAF spokesperson, said athletes from Zimbabwe would not participate in international competitions if elections were not held. Davies said: “The president Lamine Diack, two weeks ago had a meeting with Leonard Chuene, who is on the ground on the matter pertaining to Zimbabwe. A letter was sent to Athletics Zimbabwe (AZ) to hold elections as soon as possible or risk the athletes’ participation in IAAF competitions. “The season is starting on 14 March and we expect elections to have been held by that time so that athletes from your country will be considered.”

Chuene, the IAAF Africa Area Group representative based in South Africa, said he was worried about the state of athletics in the country. He said: “The Sports Commission said they can no longer hold elections for reasons known to themselves. I don’t know if this matter is going to be resolved in the near future. There could be problems if the issue is not resolved.” Sports Commission chairman Anthony Mandiwanza, last week dismissed IAAF claims saying instead it was the IAAF which was causing confusion. Mandiwanza said: “I’m surprised they are saying that. They are the ones who sent us confusing signals when they said we should hold elections using the country’s constitution. As Sports Commission we reckon national associations’ constitutions. In that respect we sent them two constitutions for their legal departments’ perusal.”

Mandiwanza said the two constitutions send to the IAAF were that of the deposed Amateur Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (AAAZ) and Athletics Zimbabwe (AZ). The IAAF ordered fresh elections following last year’s 22 June elections which ushered in the Albert Muyambo-led executive into power. In reaching their decision, the world athletics governing body noted that the elections were not conducted in a constitutional manner.

This followed an official complaint by AAAZ president Joseph Mungwari, who said his executive was not accorded the opportunity to re-run in the 22 June elections. The image of athletics has been badly damaged over the past two years as in-house bickering took centre stage. As a result sponsors either withdrew support or shunned the sport because of the bad publicity associated with it. Zimbabwe is fast emerging a major force on the international scene and any decision to keep them out could hit the country hard. Only last week, Tendai Chimusasa and Elijah Mutandiro finished first and second, respectively, in the Hong Kong Marathon, beating a strong field of 4 000 on a day that saw a total of 18 000 runners rub shoulders in different categories.

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