‘Minister showed me an envelope with pictures of dead people’ – Tatenda Taibu
In 2004, former Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu made history when he became Zimbabwe’s first black captain and at 20 years old, the youngest skipper in Test history.
Just over a year later, he was exiled in Bangladesh, on the run from a Zimbabwe Cricket board that had threatened the safety of him and his family.
Taibu has documented his journey in a new autobiography, Keeper of Faith.
He spoke this week to BBC Stumped’s Alison Mitchell of his troubles with a Zimbabwean deputy Minister about the 2005 experience.
According to Taibu, a deputy Minister of Information in former President Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet showed Taibu an envelope with pictures of dead people, apparently to scare the youngster who was only twenty at the time.
Says Taibu about the unnamed Minister: “He went and pulled a drawer and handed me an envelope, I went ahead and opened the envelope. What I saw was distressful. There were pictures of dead people.
“Some of the people looked like they were dead during the independence war. I managed to go through about five or six pictures… It was horrible.
“I always tried to think. like, is it a threat? I couldn’t get the message that he was trying to relate to me.
“So what I did was pretend like I was looking at the pictures. He was at the window looking outside. so I just said, Sir, it was nice meeting you…
“That was one of the most shocking moments I had, and I remember I was only twenty years old at the time.”
Listen to the full VOICE STATEMENT HERE.
According to a report by cricket website Cricinfo from 2005, Tatenda resigned from the national captaincy last week in protest at the alleged mal-administration of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) chairperson Peter Chingoka and managing director Ozias Bvute.
“It would not take long if the right people are put in place, because some players who left are willing to come back if Bvute and Chingoka leave. I would be glad to come back and play,” Taibu is quoted on the 2005 report.
Taibu’s problems with the government minister arose after he called for the removal of Bvute and Chingoka “because they are trying to bring in people like Themba Mliswa (the man who allegedly made threats against Taibu) and Tavengwa Mukuhlani (another of their supporters) onto the board, and we all understand that they are wrong for Zimbabwe Cricket. There are also other aspects that people will get to understand when they are exposed.”
The Cricinfo report continues: “I am really proud of the decision made by my team-mates, such decisions are not made by cowards and it shows there is team spirit.
“I met with Gideon Gono, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and he understands the situation and I believe he will do something really special. “I am not allowed to say much, but all I can say is that I have faith that he will do something.”
The autobiography focuses on Taibu’s life from his upbringing in the township of Highfield, Harare, to his early days as a cricketing prodigy, to quitting the sport at the age of 29 to devote more time to his Christian faith, this autobiography reflects on what it is like to be an outspoken athlete in Zimbabwe during the regime of Robert Mugabe.
Taibu made his Test and One Day International debuts in 2001 when he was just eighteen years old and was named vice-captain on a tour of England when he was nineteen.
Just two years later he was appointed permanent captain – the youngest in test cricket history and the first black player to captain Zimbabwe – following Andy Flower and Henry Olonga’s ‘death of democracy’ protest in 2003 and the white player walkout led by Heath Streak in 2004.
Tatenda would soon understand the perils of the role himself, and in November 2005 he announced his resignation from the role and his international retirement, after a series of disputes with the board led to his family’s safety being compromised.
Tatenda spent the intervening period in countries such as Bangladesh and England, before a return to the national team a few years later as a more detached member of the side.
He announced his retirement for good in 2012, as his rediscovery of faith began to demand more of his time, while making him view the sport in a different light.
Tatenda returned to help Zimbabwe as selector, scout and academy director in 2016, but once again mismanagement and interference from above led to him and many others’ departure a year later, leaving Zimbabwean cricket in a familiar position of peril.
He now lives in Crosby, Liverpool with his wife Loveness and his two young boys. — ZOOMZimbabwe