IN the last five years, Zimbabwe Cricket has gone from the brink of insolvency to being debt-free, allowing the game to see a brighter future. In an interview with Cricbuzz, ZC chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani talks about the effects that the organisation’s debt was having on cricket, why the ICC stood by his board during last year’s suspension, and how they intend to retrain their focus on the domestic game now that there is money to do so.
Cricbuzz – “With the ICC distributions coming through in July, does this mean that Zimbabwe Cricket is now debt-free?’’
TM – “Our situation has been quite different from other Members because of controlled funding, so the way we have been working with the ICC is we haven’t been following the biannual distribution system. It’s been going on a month-on-month basis. So, to a large extent that has allowed us to get our house in order. So, yes the July payment has been made but we have had a good run-in because of the controlled funding.’’
Cricbuzz – “Last month you announced that you were just US$1million in debt. It’s worth putting this in context to where ZC was when you took over as chairman in 2015. What was the situation then and how was it impacting cricket?’’
TM – In 2015 we had loans with local banks, we had a US$6m loan with the ICC and we had a whole line of creditors both at home and abroad who needed to be paid.
“The total amount at the time was US$27m.
‘“When we did the debt restructuring of the local bank loans, by putting them under ZAMCO (the Zimbabwe Asset Management Corporation) we reduced that from about US$19m to US$10m.
‘“We negotiated to repay that in 2023 with a lower interest rate and a haircut of about 30 per cent. Since 2015 we have been actively trying to reduce our creditors list.
“ We have been able to pay off the banks, we have paid off the remainder of the balance from the ICC loan, and part of the process of the controlled funding was to deal with the creditors, which we have really moved in terms of clearing them.
“So, we were down to US$1m last month, and that has gone down further because we have continued clearing the creditors list.
“As for how it was impacting cricket, very little money was going towards the actual game.
“When money came we had to service the debts, and what was really sad was that what we were dealing with the banks was the interest.’’
Cricbuzz – “How much of your income was going directly to repaying interest on an annual basis?’’
TM – “I think it was something like US$3m at first, which we managed to reduce substantially to about US$1m.
“We were getting US$9m per year, and US$3m of that was just going to interest, and then we had our salary bill.
“By virtue of being a Full Member, you have to pay your players like other Test nations – of course not dollar for dollar, but they need to be paid well – so after the interest and paying those salaries you realise that what was left for cricket was very insignificant.
“A big part of shifting that was getting the ICC to support you in making some changes. Given the history and that ZC had become a pariah at ICC level, how difficult was it to gain their support?
“When I started sitting on the ICC board in 2015, to be honest it wasn’t easy. A lot of Members, even friendly Members, had given up on the Zimbabwean case.
“They felt Zimbabwe had been given enough chances, there wasn’t that willpower from our end to get things right, so it took a lot of effort to try and convince the other Members (to help us).
“But I must say, Shashank (Manohar) was willing to listen and to try and work with other Members to give us a chance. We had a number of presentations to the Board to come up with a plan.
“The turning point was when we managed to invite Shashank to come to Zimbabwe and interact with the various stakeholders and get a feel for how they see cricket, what they want to see in cricket – from the government, the Ministry of Sport, the Sport and Recreation Commission.
“That helped, and then of course the hosting of the World Cup Qualifiers was a major turning point. When people saw stadiums full – for the final game we actually had to close the gates – people at ICC felt there was a cricket culture in Zimbabwe and there are cricket fans that still need to be serviced.
“Also we hosted those matches when we were still in serious financial trouble, and we managed to go all-out to host a successful event.
“That softened the positions of the other Members and within the ICC management.’’—Cricbuzz