The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to revoke Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry’s membership after she reportedly accepted a farm stolen by former President Robert Mugabe.
Coventry, who chairs the IOC Athletes’ Commission and sits on the ruling Executive Board, has faced criticism in Zimbabwe regarding a farm plot allocated to her by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Claims of human rights abuses and killings have been rife under the regime of Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe in 2017.
Coventry, a double Olympic swimming medallist and one of Zimbabwe’s most famous athletes, has been criticized for the decision to sign an offer letter from the Minister of Lands for the land on the Cockington Estate.
It has been viewed by some as a reward from Mnangagwa for her refusal to speak out against the current regime.
The Movement for Democratic Change Alliance Youth Assembly has urged the IOC to revoke Coventry’s status as a member “due to her participation in the continued brutalization and abuse of the Zimbabwean and the widespread human rights abuses carried out by the Government which Ms Coventry is an essential component”.
“Revoke the status of Ms Coventry as an IOC member due to her ongoing enforced eviction and illegal expropriation of land in Zimbabwe which violates basic human and international rights,” chairman of the group Obey Sthole said, according to New Zimbabwe.
“Examine the extent to which IOC member Kirsty Coventry has been complicit in the participation in human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe’s nephew Robert Zhuwao launched a legal challenge against Coventry after claiming he owned the land, but the High Court ruled against him.
Zhuwao had suggested Coventry, appointed Sports Minister of Zimbabwe in 2018, had effectively grabbed the land from him.
Coventry became a member of the IOC in 2013 and had been due to step down as chairperson of the IOC Athletes Commission this year, before the vote to elect her successor was pushed back until 2021 as a result of the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Tyrone Seward, Coventry’s husband, told British newspaper The Times that “there is no story here” and the claims were just a “PR stunt to discredit Kirsty”.