‘Crisis, what crisis?’

2801-1-1-BACKPAGE 29 JANUARY 2018

Isha Johansen . . . Sierra Leone Football Association President

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor—
ZIFA leaders have said there won’t be a leadership vacuum in domestic football, or a legitimacy crisis to their hold on power in the national game, if the elections — as is set to be the case — are held after March 29 this year. Critics have been singing a chorus of disapproval to the ZIFA 2018 Election Road Map, set to be unveiled at the association’s Congressional gathering on February 17, which is set to extend the term of office of the current leadership beyond March 29, with polls set to be held later this year.

They claim pushing the ZIFA poll beyond March 29 will create both a leadership vacuum and a legitimacy crisis for the executive led by Philip Chiyangwa because the board’s term of office would have spilled beyond its four-year cycle as prescribed by the association’s constitution.

Their claims are based on the fact that Chiyangwa and his team only took office on December 5, 2015 to complete the four-year term of the board led by former ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube which collapsed in spectacular fashion when he quit his post just hours before defiant councillors were scheduled to revoke his mandate on a litany of charges, including holding him responsible for the Warriors’ expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Despite Dube’s face-saving resignation, the councillors went ahead and officially revoked his mandate and also toppled his entire executive committee.

The Harare business executive had survived a similar boardroom coup in May that year when FIFA ruled that the councillors had breached their constitution, which needed at least a three-month notice to be filed for such an exercise, and their meeting had not been called by the ZIFA chief executive or chaired by the Association president.

Since Dube had been elected on March 29 2014, for a second term as leader of domestic football, there are some who insist Chiyangwa and his board should hold elections on or before that date this year because having the polls after that date would be extending the four-year mandate of the leadership and will be a violation of the ZIFA constitution.

Yesterday, The Herald sought clarification on this from ZIFA acting president Omega Sibanda, who is in charge of the association as Chiyangwa attends the CAF Organising Committee for the Nations Cup meeting in Morocco and the high-profile FIFA Executive Football Summit in Oman next month which will be presided over by FIFA boss Gianni Infantino and 45 dignitaries from 18 members of the world football governing body.

Sibanda said while the ZIFA constitution provides for four-year terms of the executive committee, it didn’t stipulate specific dates in which the polls should be held and if the last elections were held in 2014, they were right to only ensure that the next ones should be held this year without specifically tying themselves down to the March 29 date.

‘’As far as we are concerned, there isn’t any anomaly as long as we have the support of both Congress and FIFA and we could have held the elections in January this year, which would still have been okay, or we can hold them after March 29 as long as they are held this year,’’ said Sibanda.

‘’According to our constitution, the Electoral Committee has to be in place six months before the elections and that committee is set to be introduced to Congress on February 17 and, from there, the election season gets underway.

‘’Congress has the powers to decide on a lot of issues and we have also been in regular contacts with our principals at FIFA and that’s why we believe that this issue that there will be a leadership vacuum or legitimacy crisis after March 27 is out of order.

‘’You also need to remember that for about two months, from the time that the Dube executive had its mandate revoked to the day when we came in office on December 5, 2015, the Association didn’t have an executive because it was run by the then chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze and what do you do to those two months if you want to really reduce the four-year term of office to specific dates?

‘’Then, and this is very important, there is now the need for integrity checks to be completed by FIFA for those who want to challenge for positions on the ZIFA executive, they need to be cleared by the world football governing body of being people who are in good standing to serve in such positions and this is a process that needs a bit of time to be completed.

‘’We had to pass integrity checks and those who want to challenge for positions have to do that and the reason why elections have not been held in Sierra Leone for their FA leadership since August 3 last year is the issue of these integrity checks and FIFA have come out very loud and clear that they still recognise the leadership of Isha Johansen even when others say their mandate expired five months ago.’’

Johansen was elected president of the Sierra.
Leone FA on August 3 2013 but just before elections in August last year, the issue of integrity checks for possible challengers emerged and the process for the staging of the polls was derailed.

FIFA issued a statement saying they were fully behind Johansen, whose leadership they would continue to recognise until fresh polls were held, because the integrity checks had to be completed without fail for the elections to go ahead.

Some individuals in the West African country went to court to challenge Johansen’s continued stay as their football leader, arguing that her mandate expired in August last year, but the High Court ruled that FIFA’s position should be respected.

However, 29 of those rebellious officials were suspended from the game for taking the Sierra Leone Football Association to court. Johansen continues to be the football leader which FIFA recognises, five months after the poll in that country had been set to be held.

Sibanda said there was nothing wrong, too, with the ZIFA Central Region’s appeal for Congress to consider amending the clause in which the six-month period between the unveiling of the Electoral Committee and the polls should be reduced to, at least, a month.

‘’If the Congress agrees, that can be considered and we then discuss the modalities of how we can do that,’’ said Sibanda.

There is also drama in South Africa where former Bafana Bafana captain Lucas Radebe’s eligibility to run for the position of SAFA president has been dismissed because his candidature does not suit the requirements of the electoral code.

‘‘The electoral code says that the candidate needs to have served in the SAFA structures for a period of five years in the lead up to the election‚” Football Transformation Forum Secretary General Mzwandile Maforvane told the South African media. ‘‘In the case of Lucas‚ he has never served in any SAFA structure in the five years leading up to the election.

‘‘He has served in the SAFA technical committee but that is not a SAFA structure.”Another challenger to SAFA boss Danny Jordaan, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, has also seen his bid being derailed with his eligibility for the top post being questioned.

He is said to owe SAFA almost R900 000 after losing multiple court cases against the Association and Maforvane said Nonkonyana cannot stand as he was never reinstated after his expulsion in 2014. ‘‘First of all‚ Chief (Nonkonyana) was expelled as a member of SAFA by the regions in 2014‚” Maforvane said.

‘‘This means he is still not a member of SAFA. He has never appealed his expulsion and the regions have never reinstated him. ‘Secondly‚ he took SAFA to court on numerous occasions and he lost all those cases with costs. To my knowledge‚ he has never paid any of the costs and he owes Safa in the region of R900 000. When you owe the association that kind of money‚ you cannot run for any position.”

Article Source: The Herald

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