Female basketball official abused during a MidBA match

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…as WCOZ advocate for the support of women in sport

Prudence Ndhlovu

A female basketball referee from the Midlands Basketball Association (MidBA) has been physically abused while officiating a basketball match in Gweru recently, sadly this comes at a time when the nation joins the world in commemorating international women’s month while trying to eliminate gender-based violence against women.

Gender-Based Violence in sports incorporates harassment and abuse in its broad spectrum. Harassment is conduct, gestures, or comments which are insulting, intimidating, humiliating, hurtful, malicious, degrading, or otherwise offensive to an individual and in this case the female official from MidBA. This creates a hostile or intimidating environment for work or sports activities, which negatively affect performance or work conditions.

In the audio that reached this publication, the female official who cannot be named on confidentiality grounds could be heard complaining that she has had enough of the violence that she faces at the basketball matches.

“…I was strangled with my whistle on my neck. I had beer poured on me and they insulted me with vulgar words and all other stuff by this guy from Legends (Legends Basketball team in Gweru) with ‘Gubhazi’. So personally l do not know in what way are we being protected as referees? As you can see you are one of those people who used to ask why referees are no longer attending matches, this is one of the reasons. So l do not know if you see me not raising my hands or not volunteering to come for games, at least you now know the reason behind it. Because l felt violated today, shamed, exposed and l felt there was no one to protect me, l have been abused in every possible way to such an extent that l felt like I am a worthless person. So guys l have had enough, I am fed up, I am ok and I am done with all this,” she said.

When this reporter called the MidBA President Masimba Hondo, he could neither confirm nor deny the issue, however, he preferred to question this reporter’s source.

“…may I ask where did you get this information from?”

However, a source within the MidBA association who pleaded for anonymity said it is true that the situation happened and that this was not the first time for the accused club to be involved in the abuse of officials.

“Yes it is true that a female official was physically abused, we were there. They poured beer on her and insulted her with vulgar. This is not the first time that the Legends team has been involved in violent tendencies during matches. Several times and for many years this team has been known for its violent tendencies, especially towards officials. What is surprising, however, is that MidBA goes mute on all these cases, no punishment whatsoever takes place, they are just left like that. I remember sometime back when we were playing the same team and they started arguing over a call made by an official, they were shouting at the cot, went on to tear the scoresheet, and left the game, unfortunately, there was no punishment for them,” said the source.

However, reports reaching us say that there has been a disciplinary committee set up to deal with the issue. But, some have questioned whether the committee will be objective in dealing with this issue considering that the other members in the committee are themselves players of the accused Legends basketball team.

“It is good to have a disciplinary committee sit to deal with this issue, but are they going to be objective considering that some of the members there are part of the accused team or were once part of the team?” asked a source who spoke on confidentiality grounds.

Basketball Union of Zimbabwe President Joe Mujuru told this reporter that a commission of inquiry has been set up to look into this issue.

“The Midlands Basketball Association board has set up a commission of inquiry into the matter of the alleged assault on a technical official. The commission will submit their report by Friday to the MidBA board and thereafter a disciplinary committee establishes that there is indeed a case for a DC to hear. At this stage, as BUZ we are allowing the province enough space to deal with this matter using their internal mechanisms while keeping a close eye. So far we are satisfied that they are treating this issue with the seriousness that it deserves. I receive constant updates from the President and our commission for women is keeping a bird’s eye view on the matter,” he said.

Speaking in an interview with this reporter the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) Midlands Chapter Focal Person Locadia Mavhudzi said it is a sad situation that women’s rights continue to be violated especially in male-dominated places. She called for those in sports administration to support women in sports so that success stories can come out.

“It is a pathetic situation that women continue to face challenges especially when they try to penetrate male-dominated spaces. Here we found that a woman who is into basketball, how many if we are to look at statistics of women playing basketball in Zimbabwe. We realise that they are very few, so we need to have them supported rather than being intermediated. We continue to advocate and say can we support our women in sports so that they develop and we develop in that regard as a nation. But if we continue with such practices then we are drawing back, we are not going through with the same agenda we are drawing back to a time when women were seen as not equal partners in development.

“So l would like to urge sporting administration out there not just in basketball only, but in all sports that women in sports need to be supported. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to hear success stories of how women are faring in the sporting arena. So we continue to advocate and say can we be more gender-sensitive in our approaches when we are in the sport. We continue to say can the women in sport get the facilities they need, get the resources on equal bases, and also rather on an equity base because we are trying to address a challenge whereby the participation is already limited. We have platforms that motivate women in sport,” she said.

Some members of the MidBA association who spoke to this reporter said that the cases of violence against officials were becoming worrisome and therefore, people wait to see how the disciplinary committee will respond to this one.

“This is a serious issue, it is GBV related. Legends has been involved in so many altercations with officials and nothing has happened. However, on this one we hear that a disciplinary committee has been set up so we await the outcome of the discussions,” said a source that cannot be named.

Our society needs to change cultural norms and encourage everyone to create preventative measures towards GBV.

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