THE Zimbabwe senior netball team captain, Felisitus Kwangwa, has welcomed the gesture by the Government after they received funds meant to help athletes.
The Government, through the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Ministry, unveiled a $10 million Covid-19 relief package in July.
Under the programme, elite athletes were allocated $8 000 each while those in the excellence tier, which is for those representing the country at continental level, are getting $5 000.
Emerging athletes, placed in the third tier and community sport, in the fourth tier, are getting $3 000 and $2 000.
The Gems are part of the athletes who benefited from the fund and they got $8 000 each.
They have, over the years, made the nation proud, in particular, after their maiden appearance at the World Cup last year.
They came eighth, out of 16 competing teams, and it remains a major highlight in their journey where they have continued to make great strides, against all odds.
They have been to the Africa Netball Cup and Pent Series events, among other competitions.
However, this year has been a quiet one for the senior side because of the pandemic that saw most events being shelved.
Kwangwa said it’s encouraging to see athletes being recognised.
“It’s very helpful and I am glad that they considered us, the athletes, in these difficult times,” she said. “Remember, this is what we do for a living.
“We invest our time in the game and, with this, I have learnt that we are also regarded as important, like the rest of other workers in the country.”
Another player, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said with most of them having no other source of income, the intervention by the Government came at the right time.
“Most players make a living through playing games, and getting winning bonuses,” she said.
“But, this year, things are different, it’s been difficult, with no games, so this helps.
“And, we thank the government for the gesture, now we hope they can allow us to play, even just one tournament.”
Some of the athletes who have received the money include female top boxer Monalisa Sibanda.
As the distribution of the fund continues, deputy director sport and recreation in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Ignatius Vambe, has encouraged those that are still to receive the money to engage them or the Sports and Recreation Commission.
“It may be about where they submitted their forms but, as soon as the forms reach the SRC, we normally don’t have a problem with elite athletes.
“We actually know their events… the records were actually there.
“Those that have applied, and not received anything, we encourage them to either approach the SRC or the Ministry’s sports department and we can assist them.
“We encourage national sport associations that have elite athletes they know applied, and have not received the money, to approach us because there should be an explanation.
“Even those that had their applications returned, there is an explanation and most of them have been reapplying,” Vambe said.
The application forms are submitted to the Sports Commission, who then forward them to the Ministry, and there is an independent committee to check the applications.
Those that would have been verified and approved get the money.
Vambe said they have made progress with the disbursement, but the main challenge was with athletes at community level as some did not have bank accounts.
But, sVambe said they have engaged Empower Bank to address the problem. “We have engaged Empower Bank to open accounts unconditionally for athletes and they are now moving around going to districts to give forms.
“Last week, we were in Buhera and also in Gutu where Empower Bank came through.
“So, where we had problems was mainly related to community athletes but we have addressed that.
“I think we have made tremendous progress because we had assistance from the Minister (Kirsty Coventry) herself.
“Recently deputy Minister (Tino Machakaire) was in Buhera and Gutu. The idea is not to concentrate on urban areas only.
“So, we are making sure that everybody is aware of the processes.”