Call for revival of Chamber of Mines grows louder Juma Phiri

Nkosilathi Sibanda, Online Reporter

WHEN Charity Tshuma speaks of her childhood experiences during the Chamber of Mines Athletics competitions, she does so with a deep sense of belonging and ownership.

It is a reality bound to be received as mere grandiose, for those who never lived at mines.

But, her memories of the event, one of the best run competitions, leaves one who never was at a mine or that competition, envious.

Tshuma was born in Hwange in 1965 and raised in the coal mining area, where she lived until her relocation to Victoria Falls when she got married.

She recalls how in the late 1970s, when her father, who was a shift supervisor at the then Wankie Colliery Company, would take her on a weekend out.

Short of other options for entertainment in the small town, Saturdays started with the traditional family shopping at Meikles Town.

With that chore done and dusted, the family would ponder whether to go to bowling club, have breakfast at the Golf Club or watch the local football league.

Sunday would have a weekly routine of church and then Wankie Football Club before it changed to Hwange FC.

Rugby at the Sports Pavilion was yet another item on the entertainment bill.

Of all sport action she was exposed to, Tshuma counts the Chamber of Mines Athletics Championships as the best.

These were the Championships that left a lasting impression not only on her, but probably a large section of the sport loving community which never had anything else to pre-occupy besides sport and dancing.

Sport was mines’ life and the Chamber of Mines Games which were last held in 2008, left a big void even in the national athletics teams and it was the last nail on the coffin of track cycling.

Mines had kept that sport on the track.

Chamber of Mines Athletics Championships were like the national and final event of the year.

The competition, organised annually by major mining companies countrywide, pushed for the improvement of facilities and gave youths careers in sport and jobs at mines.

The mine managers valued the Championships as on the sidelines they had their own golf competitions with athletics, track cycling and tug-of-war providing for bragging rights.

Promotion, permanent jobs and blankets were some of the incentives for athletes and with the Championships, held from one mine to the other, they boosted tourist arrival figures and host mine communities’ economy as even informal traders got a share.

It was always great for the host mine’s community to come in numbers to cheer on heroes or watch iconic figures like Artwell Mandaza, Adon Treva, Phillip Mukomana, Juma Phiri, Salathiel Zangure, Dave Charlie, Njere Shumba, Julius Masvanhise, Jeffrey Masvanhise, Elliot Mujaji, Zephaniah Ncube, Themba Ncube, Benjamin Songoya, Jeffrey Wilson, Partson Muderedzi, Abel Nkoma, Kenias Tembo and Musaope Phiri.

Most of the national teams on either side of Independence until 20 years ago, were dominated by athletes from the mines.

For long some of the records like Treva’s 46.2 seconds in the 400m and Artwell Mandaza’s 20.8 seconds in the 200, had stayed intact.

The last games were held at Zimasco’s Peak Stadium in Shurugwi and were the last in their 48th edition.

For one Juma Phiri the Chamber of Mines competitions were the local Olympics.

Phiri in his youth made a name at a championship held in Hwange in 1999. He set a new national record of 2.16m in the high jump.

“We are what we are because of the Chamber of Mines. A number of athletes that made it to the national teams and went on to represent the country at other big competitions, all came through those championships,” said Phiri .

He said a lot of talent was brought to the fore.

Phiri was poached by the legendary Prize Ndlovu to join Hwange Colliery towards the end of the 1990s.

Ndlovu was the Colliery sports officer.

Phiri remains a strong advocate for the revival of the championships.

“I was identified to compete at the Chamber of Mines while I was at Hamilton High School. During holidays I would train at White City Stadium and and would compete for Hwange at the Chamber Games. That was the start of my journey in sport. It is all because of the Chamber of Mines.

“I implore leaders within the Chamber of Mines, in particular the managing directors and the chief executives of mining companies to consider reviving the games,” he said.

He said as a beneficiary of the games, he will continue to lobby for their revival.

“I achieved a lot and would want the younger generation of athletes to experience the same. The Chamber of Mines were the best competition. We got monetary awards and other promotional opportunities that got us in good stead as young athletes,” said Phiri.


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