ZIMBABWE sailing team’s preparations for the next All Africa Games in neighbouring Mozambique took off to a poor start after purportedly hired youths last Friday besieged several lakeside recreational facilities at Chivero Dam.
Peter Morris, chairman of the national sailing team on Wednesday said scores of suspected Zanu PF youths on Friday disrupted a 15-member junior national sailing squad’s first training session ahead of the continental showcase set for September.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said the youths confronted the predominantly white operators after accusing them of “utter racism”, raising fears of property expropriations reminiscent of violent land grabs at the turn of the millennium.
Reports say several properties including the Rainbow Tourism Group-run Harare Safari lodge, Kuimbashiri Lodge, Hunyani Hills Hotel and several boating clubs were besieged by the suspected Zanu PF youths. The party denies the charges despite reports suggesting that that the marauding youths were flying party flags and extolling farm-invasion style exploits.
Zimbabwe’s sailing team won a bronze medal after scooping 23 medals four years ago in Algeria. “Our first training for the year was disrupted after last week’s demonstrations,” Morris said. “Our initial plan was to have one training session every month and then increase to twice every month after May.” He said the senior national team is expected to start preparations later in the year.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe Tourism Authority CEO Karikoga Kaseke assured tourism players that no further disturbances would affect the cash-spinning industry currently expected to contribute 6% of the gross domestic product this year on the back anticipated recovery on both global and domestic economic activity.
“The matter had to be elevated to the level of the Joint Operation Command, in particular, who took a very strong approach against these illegal protestors,” Kaseke said.
The 10th All Africa Games were initially scheduled for Zambia after the Supreme Council of Sport named the northern border country ahead of Ghana. Three years later in 2008, Zambia withdrew its offer to host the games due to lack of funds, resulting in Mozambique stepping in.
Zimbabwe hosted the games in 1995 winning six gold medals, six silver and 23 bronze medals to come position seventh. Apart from a handful of medals won during the sporting event, a legacy of rundown sporting infrastructure is all that is left.