Acting president Mphoko pledges govt support for chess in schools
Grace Chingoma, Harare Bureau
ACTING President Phelekezela Mphoko yesterday pledged Government support towards chess in schools after he met the international chess governing body’s leader Kirsan Illyum in Harare ahead of the African Schools’ Individual Chess Championships which get underway tomorrow.
Fourteen African countries converge in the country today for the tournament which will run up to August 28.
Yesterday, Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane led a delegation, which comprised FIDE president Illyum and African Chess Confederation Lewis Ncube, to a courtesy call on the Acting President.
And Mphoko, who used to play the game and displayed a deep history of the sport, commended Hlongwane.
“This is your baby. There is very little I can talk about except history but in terms of the programme, the programme is yours,” said the Acting President.
Illyum said they have received tremendous support to promote and develop chess in schools from other governments and were also expecting the same from Zimbabwe.
“Three years ago, when I met with President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, he supported our programme of chess in schools and he also gave us scholarships for chess players around the world and now hundreds of chess players study in Moscow University and Moscow University for Sport, and through our Russian Embassy (here), you can send your chess players (from) here,’’ he said.
African Chess Confederation boss Ncube added that chess was on the rise on the continent.
“Zimbabwe is one of the prominent members of the African Chess Federation, there are 47 members and as far as chess in Africa is concerned, it’s on the rise.
“We have a lot of challenges and we have to rely quite a lot on government support, but in a lot of areas we are trying to move from government support to shift towards companies.
“Zimbabwe, in terms of Africa, have one of the largest chess-playing school children in terms of capacity and every time when we organise tournaments on the continent, Zimbabwe always sends a largest contingent,” said Ncube.
The country got the opportunity to host this tournament for the first time after Namibia pulled out.
And Ncube revealed that all the equipment which will be used to host the Championships such as chess clocks and sets will be distributed to schools after the championships.
Hlongwane pledged to work with the chess bosses.
“There is a lot of work happening within our school structures. We have starting tomorrow our Youth Games and for the first time we have included chess as one of the codes and that shows how serious we are.
“We want strong partnership with yourself as well as FIDE and African chapter.
“I am very happy that the African board meeting would be happening in Zimbabwe,’’ said Hlongwane.