Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Grace Chiumia on Saturday took a swipe at Netball Association of Malawi (NAM), telling the local netball governing body to end politics of mistreating players or quit.
The minister made the statement at the Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC) during prize presentation of the Presidential Netball Championship after she noted that the netball authorities failed to acknowledge the presence of Australia-based Malawi Queens’ shooter Mwawi Kumwenda or give her an opportunity to inspire fellow netball players with a speech.
Using her powers as a senior government official, Chiumia called Kumwenda to the podium to make a speech.
Said the minister in the presence of NAM president Khungekile Matiya and general secretary Carol Bapu: “I was not supposed to do this, but I am forced to make a decision for Mwawi to make a speech.”
“Let me make it clear here that it is high time you end netball politics at NAM. How could they fail to acknowledge a netball player of Mwawi’s calibre at this event? Everyone knows Mwawi is our netball ambassador and is an inspiration to up-and-coming players yet there was strong resistance from within NAM to let her speak here. If you are unable to end netball politics, it is better that you resign.”
In her brief statement, Mwawi urged netball players to work hard to have opportunity of playing in lucrative foreign leagues.
However, in her response Matiya disputed that there is politics at NAM, saying the body works within its mandate of developing the sport.
“As NAM we do our business of developing netball and we respect Mwawi as our ambassador,” she said.
This is the second time the minister has spoken about the strained relationship between Mwawi and NAM. In 2015, she intervened after the netballer made it clear that she could no longer play for the Queens until NAM addresses the issues to do with her exclusion from national duties.
In 2017, there was an outcry from local netball lovers after she was dropped from the squad that was preparing for the Fast5 Netball Series in Australia
The cat-and-mouse relationship between NAM and Mwawi started in 2014 when the Melbourne Vixens shooter, who is currently recuperating from an injury, made herself unavailable for a Queens’ assignment, claiming she had an appointment with a dentist in South Africa.
However, NAM got angry after it later transpired that the 2015 Netball World Cup player-of-the-tournament had already visited the doctor at the time she gave the excuse.