President Emmerson Mnangagwa says the hosting of the 2018 Cricket World Cup qualifiers by Zimbabwe is testimony that the country is now taking its rightful place in the universal family of nations.
President Mnangagwa made the remarks when he officially launched the 2018 International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup qualifier sporting showcase at a dinner held for the participating 10 teams in Harare Sunday night.
From the 4th to the 25th of March the spotlight will be on Zimbabwe as the country play host to nine international countries which are vying for the two slots left for qualification to the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
The prestigious tournament is being held just three months after the country entered a new political era and President Mnangagwa is optimistic the goodwill that will be generated by the country from hosting the sporting event is invaluable.
“The hosting of these qualifiers by Zimbabwe comes at the most opportune time following a peaceful political transition in our country which has ushered in a renewed sense of optimism and has been marked by a process of engaging and re-engaging with the international community in our quest to take our place in the global family of nations…Zimbabwe is open for business,” he said.
The tournament was initially slated for Bangladesh but the decision was rescinded when it became apparent that the south Asian country was close to automatic qualification.
Zimbabwe was among three countries that expressed an interest to host together with the United Arab Emirates and a joint bid from Ireland and Scotland and Zimbabwe eventually won the bid.
President Mnangagwa acknowledged the economic gains that can be derived from hosting of such major sporting events and urged the participating teams to observe good sportsmanship.
“We are optimistic that the hosting of such an event will help in improving the image of our country and create business for our tourism and hospitality sector,” added President Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe has adopted realistic policies and strategies that are aimed at promoting sport as an essential part of the education curriculum.
Cde Mnangagwa also invited foreign and domestic investors to venture into sporting related infrastructure and implored other sporting disciplines in the country to pursue junior development programmes.
The Zimbabwe Cricket, the ICC and the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation have introduced a cricket development programme that is targeting boys and girls aged 13 and under.
The two vice presidents Retired General Constantino Chiwenga and Cde Kembo Mohadi, government ministers, Minister of State for Harare province, international cricket players and stakeholders from the sporting fraternity graced the opening dinner.
President Mnangagwa noted government’s thrust is to ensure that school children are exposed to a variety of sporting disciplines.
The President urged the participating teams to be good ambassadors for Zimbabwe when they return to their countries and to desist from engaging in vices like match fixing, bribery and cheating saying such ills dent the image of sport in general and also demoralise deserving sportspersons.