Botswana: Bittersweet experience for Mhonda

Munyaradzi Mhonda has met various challenges playing rugby in Botswana, Zimbabwe’s largely-xenophobic neighbour.

Munyaradzi Mhonda.
Munyaradzi Mhonda.

He told The Zimbabwean this week that he has had a bittersweet experience in his country’s western neighbour, where some sections of the sport still gave him a cold shoulder, a decade after his surprise move.

“I have continued to receive a mixed reception,” said the former Prince Edward High School lock.

“I have been received well by those who understand that it is possible for foreigners to be integrated into sporting teams. Those have been very welcoming, but there are also those who are ignorant to that fact. Nonetheless, even first world countries are adopting foreign nationals as a way of bolstering their teams to compete internationally.

“My situation is made difficult by the fact that Botswana does not have policies that integrate foreigners into its national sides by giving them citizenship. I am however, hopeful that someday the government of Botswana will grant me citizenship for my years of service.”

Mhonda has represented Botswana since 2002, becoming the first Zimbabwean-born player to play and captain the African Leopards, Africa’s yearly invitational select team as well as skippering Botswana between 2009 and 2010.

The 31-year-old justified the decision.

“It was a long and difficult decision to play for Botswana instead of Zimbabwe. I had to weigh the pros and cons and the likelihood of me returning to play for Zimbabwe during my prime. Unfortunately, the chances at the time were very slim. I then took the decision. Rugby has always been my passion and I wanted to continue playing.”

The lock-turned-eighth man was part of the golden generation of Zimbabwean players that included players like Tonderai Chavhanga, who ironically has represented South Africa, Piet Benade, Lawrence Smith and Gordon Pangeti.

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