There has been tremendous publicity and angry vitriol surrounding a recent admission of guilt by former Zimbabwean cricket captain Heath Streak regarding his conduct and association with an ‘unnamed individual’ who was allegedly interested in investing in cricket in Africa. Streak played 65 Tests and 189 one-day internationals for Zimbabwe between 1993 and 2005.
In his official statement Streak states, said individual was ‘vetted and cleared through the usual protocols’ before he engaged with him. He explains that he received an undisclosed amount of Bitcoin to assist in building and buying teams to participate in a future competition. Later, he claims, he only received a bottle of whiskey and a phone for his wife. Some months after this he was informed by someone on the ICC that the unnamed individual was involved in online betting and may have used some of the information passed by Streak for gambling purposes. Following an intensive two-year investigation of Streak’s activities, it apparently became clear he had “unwittingly flouted some of the elements of the ICC ethics code.” Streak states categorically “I was not involved in any match-fixing, spot-fixing or attempt to influence a game or share information from a changing room during a match at any given time in our relationship. This has been confirmed by the ICC itself in its own statement”.
The punishment is severe; he has been banned from having any involvement in the game of cricket for eight years and there might be more to come. A move has been made by the Zimbabwe Sports and Recreation Commission to initiate a criminal prosecution.
“The Ministry has requested the National Prosecuting Authority to ascertain whether any of the criminal laws in Zimbabwe, particularly those relating to corruption, have been breached by Heath Streak in order that appropriate action is also taken locally by the NPA,” the SRC board chairman said.
“It remains the Ministry and SRC’s position that there is zero tolerance for corruption and bad governance in our sport and all such instances of corruption are hereby condemned in the strongest possible terms,’’ the SRC further stated.
It supported Streak’s ban from all involvement in cricket.
“In this respect, the decision of the ICC in relation to the banning of Heath Streak is fully supported and endorsed.” The above decisions by the ICC and the SRC have been applauded by the international media and by cricket administrators everywhere.
I am not acquainted with Heath Streak, but I was dismayed some years ago to watch him launch into the political arena as a proud member of an organisation called Zimbabweans Against Sanctions. From this position he used his heft as a well-known sporting personality to join the call for the United States and the European Union to lift the targeted travel and financial restrictions imposed on certain individuals one of whom, ironically, was the late former Zimbabwe Cricket President Peter Chingoka.
Streak, somewhat disingenuously in my view, bearing in mind he comes from farming stock and had weathered the land invasions, blamed the country’s lack of economic development on these so-called sanctions.
I reminded myself he was probably too young to know what real sanctions were. A little older he would have known that that was when the Royal Navy deployed warships to patrol the Mozambique Channel in an effort throttle his country, and the United Nations declared it a threat to world peace as a pretext to implementation of the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever imposed by the world body, aimed at stopping all imports and exports, to and from every country in the world. The ‘sanctions’ he was complaining about were and are in fact, restrictions placed on a small number of individuals who have been accused of human rights and other abuses. If he thought his actions might ingratiate him with the cricketing and political authorities, it appears he was mistaken.
Having said all that, I still look at this punitive action against him and the attendant international applause with a jaundiced eye.
From 1992 when Peter Chingoka took over as Board Chairman, cricket in Zimbabwe has lurched from one crisis to another thanks to an administration that has been characterised by endemic corruption and atrocious mismanagement. Millions has allegedly been stolen.
In March 2003 Captain Andy Flower and paceman Henry Olonga wore black arm-bands to protest the politics of the day following the land invasions and the poor administration of cricket. They both left the country soon thereafter.
In October 2007, Chingoka, who was due to give evidence in a Darrell Hair employment tribunal/racism controversy, was refused entry to Britain. In February 2008, the-then UK Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, refused to guarantee that Chingoka would be allowed entry to attend a London meeting of the ICC until a publication of a report by accountants KPMG on alleged corruption in Zimbabwean cricket. The ICC remained silent.
In an attempt to increase pressure, 30 players, including then captain Tatenda Taibu signed a petition calling on Chingoka and Managing Director Ozias Bvute, to resign. This was also ignored by the ICC.
Recently, four national players wrote to the ICC pleading with the body to intervene and save cricket in the country. They have been ignored and the signatories are, I gather no longer, eligible for selection.
The wilful complicity of the ICC has been an important component in the decline and near destruction of Zimbabwe cricket. The official reaction to this error of judgement – which appears more unethical than criminal – is puzzling. Could it be because Streak is white and therefore the perfect scapegoat and an opportunity for the responsible authorities to be seen to be doing something?
If the ICC members are serious about looking for corruption in the game, maybe they should use a mirror.