HARARE – Kirsty Coventry found herself in the middle of a racial controversy on Thursday after she revealed that she had called a white member of the Zimbabwe cricket team to congratulate him for their historic Test match victory over Bangladesh.
The Sports Minister, who is white, shared some contents of her discussion with Brendan Taylor on Twitter, but Zimbabweans quickly pointed out that the minister should have been calling the captain Hamilton Masakadza, who is black.
“I had an amazing chat with @BrendanTaylor86 to send congratulations to our cricket team. They are so pumped and they should be! It’s important that all our athletes, like our artists and musicians, have the best environment so they can perform at their ultimate! Working on it,” Coventry said on Twitter.
Lawrence Moyo, editor of the Harare tabloid H-Metro quickly suggested the minister could open herself to criticism for failing to follow protocol.
“Hello @ZimCricketv, kindly give Honourable Minister Kirsty Coventry the contacts for captain Hamilton Masakadza or his deputy (if any), coach or manager. Thank me later!,” he tweeted.
Some were not so civil, aiming invective at the former Olympic swimmer.
“Why @BrendanTaylor86 of which Masakadza is the captain (sic). Discrimination of colour (sic),” one Gwagwa (@NyagatoAlbert) wrote to Coventry, who was appointed to the role in September.
“She’s racist. You are a bloody racist. The captain of Chevrons we recognise is Captain Sir Hamilton Masakadza. Not this Brendon Taylor boy,” Eng G.R Madzinga (@g_madzinga) wrote in reply.
Murehwa Soko (@murehwasoko) told Coventry: “Protocol Minister, credit is given to the captain, or man-of-the-match, vice captain and the team not personal chats. If it’s personal keep it on WhatsApp, don’t publish.”
Others were happy to forgive the mistake.
“Kirsty, that was not proper but given its your first known misstep, I personally give you the benefit of doubt,” said Mpostori (@Mpostori3), who added: “You are the Minister of Sport now and you have been in sport for long to know the significance of this error.”
Others asked if she had found time to call players from the all-black Zimbabwe national football team who are on the brink of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
I had an amazing chat with @BrendanTaylor86 to send congratulations to our cricket team. They are so pumped and they should be! Its important that all our athletes, like our artists and musicians, have the best environment so they can perform at their ultimate! Working on it… pic.twitter.com/hBPTBjElNm— Kirsty Coventry (@KirstyCoventry) November 8, 2018
Coventry returned to the furore with a response to Moyo, stating: “I will be calling him (Masakadza), just got his number.”
Zimbabwe thumped Bangladesh by 151 runs in the first of two Tests, bowling the home side out for 143 and 169 in Sylhet on Tuesday – their first Test win in five years.
Zimbabwe last won a Test match in 2013 when they beat Pakistan by 24 runs in Harare, and ranks comfortably last on the ICC Test ladder. They had not won a Test away since 2001 when they beat Bangladesh in Chittagong.