MEDIA, INFORMATION and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira says sport is a huge exporter where investment should be celebrated.
Mandiwanzira was speaking at the Old Mutual High-Density Schools Rugby Development Programme’s Inter Community Cup at Hartsfield Rugby Grounds on Friday where he was co-guest of honour.
“Rugby exports less in terms of numbers than soccer but more in terms of quality,” he said.
He went on to list some of the exported players like David Pocock, Brian Mujati, Tonderai Chavanga, Takudzwa Ngwenya, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira among others who have left Zimbabwe to establish themselves outside the country, mostly in South Africa and Australia.
“Today we celebrate a huge investment to an area which needs it a lot – high-density. After this, how much talent will we produce if we have been able to produce such exceptional players from the few schools associated with the sport in the past?” he added.
He implored Old Mutual to expand the project to rural constituencies which would further-open up opportunities for boys and girls from previously marginalised schools to participate in rugby.
Explaining the relationship between his ministry and sport, Mandiwanzira said the country is on the verge of migrating to digital broadcasting which has a June 17 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union.
“This means one TV station will be able to broadcast many channels and what will happen is that all those channels will need content and I commend Old Mutual for creating a platform that will provide exciting content for media organisations,” he said.
“TV will be more popular in Zimbabwe if we could see our children playing rugby on TV because anywhere in the world, people want to see people they know, see themselves, see people who look like them or things they can associate with on TV,” Mandiwanzira said.
“Furthermore, increased viewership increases the earning capacity of the sport that is why English Premier League players earn as much as they do. That would mean we will be able to retain players to benefit the national teams,” he added.
Sport, Arts and Culture deputy minister Tabeth Kanengoni-Malinga echoed Mandiwanzira’s sentiments saying the aim was to groom talent that the country could retain through building the right infrastructure and environment for it to want to stay.
“The Old Mutual High-Density Schools Development Programme is an honourable initiative that aids the government’s policy of creating equal opportunities for all,” she said.
“We have also been struggling to mitigate sanctions and sport is one way to do that,” she added.
Old Mutual group chief executive officer Jonas Mushosho said the programme made significant strides this year catering for over 1 561 boys and girls from 28 different schools in high-density areas.
“We are excited by the relationship we have with the Zimbabwe Rugby Union that has ignited excitement among rugby players from less privileged communities. We have watched the game grow through the number of new participants and also the development of children’s skills. This sets us for greater success next year,” Mushosho said.
Eight development teams identified by the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) showcased their talent where rugby players from St Columba’s, Entumbane, Msitheli, Nkulumane, Sobukhazi, Sikhulile, Northlea and Mzilikazi had an opportunity to compete against each other at Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 levels.
Entumbane were champions in the Under-16 and Under-14 categories while Sobukhazi coached by Killian Hadebe won the Under-18 category with a 20-0 triumph over Msitheli.
Elson Manyange, Handson Hlongwane and Talent Dube scored a try each for Sobukhazi while Oswell Msimanga contributed with one penalty conversion and one try conversion kick.
The competition was also watched by ZRU president John Falkenberg, vice-presidents Colleen de Jongé, Nyararai Sibanda, general manager Sifiso Made, Zimbabwe Sables coach Brendan Dawson and former ZRU director of rugby Liam Middleton.