Kirsty Coventry's re-appointment for a second spell as Sports Minister has been welcomed by the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee ©Twitter

The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) has welcomed the re-appointment of Kirsty Coventry as the country’s Minister for Sports, Art and Recreation.

The double Olympic swimming gold medallist has been given a second five-year term by Emmerson Mnangagwa following his controversial re-election as Zimbabwe’s President last month.

The decision to stick with the 40-year-old International Olympic Committee (IOC) member drew some criticism, particularly from the arts, but the ZOC has backed their former vice-president.

"On behalf of the entire Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, I wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Kirsty Coventry on her re-appointment as Minister of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture," ZOC chief executive Marlene Chiedza Gadzirayi said.

"We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the Honourable Minister and her team to advance the Olympic Movement, foster sports excellence and promote the values of unity, friendship and fair play that is the core of the Olympics.

"We are even more strengthened to have her leading this important Ministry as we look forward to Paris 2024.

"At ZOC we believe the streamlining of the Ministry will ensure that sport is given its rightful place as a profitable industry, and we are grateful for this timely recognition."

Among the first events Coventry attended following her re-appointment was to support Zimbabwe at this weekend's Africa Men's Sevens where the country's rugby team were trying to qualify for Paris 2024. 

The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), which oversees sport in Zimbabwe, was another organisation pleased to see Coventry continue.

"I am extremely pleased that the Minister has been re-appointed," SRC chairman Gerald Mlotshwa said.

"The decision to realign her portfolio so that it’s largely focussed on sports is also a very good one.

"On behalf of the SRC, I wish to congratulate her and assure her that our excellent working relationship will continue as we strive to deliver on our mandate."

Coventry's first spell as Minister was overshadowed by a row involving the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA).

In February 2022, FIFA banned the ZIFA because of financial irregularities and allegations of sexual harassment of female referees by technical staff.

Several members of the ZIFA Board accused Coventry of lying to Parliament that they misappropriated part of a $2 million (£1.6 million/€1.9 million) funding package provided by the Government and that some of them have been suspended over sexual harassment issues.

Coventry refused to retract her remarks.

In July, FIFA lifted the ban on Zimbabwe playing international matches and established a temporary Normalisation Committee to run the affairs at the ZIFA until June 2024.

Zimbabwe’s Premier League Soccer League (PSL) chairman Fair Jere claimed that the decision to retain Coventry in the role is good news for football.

"We are very excited with the re-appointment of Kirsty Coventry to the post of Ministry of Sports," he said.

"If you look at it, she has already gone through what is called the learning curve.

"She really understands what is needed in various sports, soccer included.

"So that experience, if she was appointed to another Ministry, it was going to be a waste of a five-year experience.

"So that is going to help football at large."

Kirsty Coventry's re-appointment as Zimbabwe's Sports Minister follows Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, retaining his position as President in elections critics claim fell below international standards ©Getty Images
Kirsty Coventry's re-appointment as Zimbabwe's Sports Minister follows Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, retaining his position as President in elections critics claim fell below international standards ©Getty Images

Jere hopes that Coventry will continue to implement reforms at ZIFA she launched during her first spell as Sports Minister.

"Football is not easy, and we now have got comfort with the experience that she has acquired over the last five years," he said.

"So, we are very excited, and as PSL chairman I would like to wish her well.

"In football there are certain reforms which she was trying to push.

"So, it’s very good that she is going to complete what she has started, what she really wants to see football look like, what she expected from football."

Mnangagwa won a second term as Zimbabwe President in a disputed vote last month, which the opposition described as a "gigantic fraud" following criticism from election observers who say the election failed to meet regional and international standards.

Coventry, winner of a total of seven Olympic medals, including golds in the 200 metres backstroke at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, is considered to be among the frontrunners to succeed Thomas Bach as IOC President when he is due to step down in 2025.

Coventry leads the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the 2026 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Dakar.