Zim Gems in heart break start to Africa Netball Cup campaign

ZIMBABWE Netball Association (Zina) president Leticia Chipandu has launched a last minute desperate bid to convince the International Netball Federation to reschedule Zimbabwe Gems’  Africa Netball Cup 8pm opening match against Uganda as the team will only arrive in Cape Town at 9pm.

Zimbabwe had been billed to take on Uganda at 8am Friday before the match was postponed to 8pm as tournament organisers attempted to accommodate the financially troubled southern African team. 

The cash strapped team departed Friday 11am on Air Zimbabwe to Johannesburg where they will connect to Cape Town and arrive in the evening at about 9pm, Zina spokesperson Maimba Mapuranga said yesterday.

“The Zimbabwe Netball Association president Mrs Chipandu has made the African Netball Association aware of this and consequently The Zimbabwe vs Uganda game has been re scheduled to the last game for both teams in the tournament,” Mapuranga said yesterday.

Netball South Africa released a statement Friday morning alerting the Zimbabwe Gems will be playing Uganda at 8pm Friday night in Cape Town putting paid to Zina claims.  

The president is currently in Cape Town as we speak negotiating on a way forward for Zimbabwe,” said a Zina top official who declined to be named as they do not have authority to speak to the media.

Efforts to get a comment from Chipandu were fruitless. The trip has been hanging by a thread due to unavailability of funds.

The Gems breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday when National Foods, through their brand, Pearlenta Instant Porridge, donated Z$250 000 (about US$15,000) for flights, kits, bags, and upkeep.

Government, through director in the Ministry of Youth , Sport, Arts and Recreation Eugenia Chidakwa declined to take questions from the media regarding the team’s financial position.

On the other hand, the Chipandu led administration is under investigation over allegations of inept administration among other shortcomings.

Speaking during a donation ceremony on Wednesday, an elated Zimbabwe Netball Association (Zina) secretary-General Barbra Rice said the team was close to giving up their quest before National Foods turned saviour. 

The journey had become difficult but I want to say thank you to National Foods for bailing us out. It had become difficult for us,” Rice told a Wednesday press conference. 

I also want to thank Cutting Edge Consultancy for facilitating this sponsorship,” she added. 

Team manager Ledwin Dondo said their will be taking a lean squad of 12 players to the African Netball Championships due to their financial position. 

National Foods group marketing executive Lawrence Kutinyu said “continue to give each and every player a food hamper just to makes sure that they don’t have to worry about the basics.”

The Gems will receive food hampers from National Foods for the next 12 months.