Zifa crisis on steroids

The Chronicle

Dingilizwe Ntuli, Sports Editor                                                                                                                                                 

THERE is no denying that the crisis at Zifa is now on steroids and events of the past weeks are testament to the quagmire local football administration finds itself in.

Chaos had long reared its ugly head at Zifa before the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) made the bold move to intervene in November last year in a bid to restore sanity in the domestic game.

Corrupt football associations the world over have often abused a provision in the Fifa statutes barring interference by third parties in the running of national associations.

The world football governing body bans associations which violate this provision, triggering a host of negative consequences that impact the affected country’s domestic game.

A Fifa ban means a country is literally banished from the beautiful game as all football links with the outside world are completely cut off.

In Africa, for example, the affected country’s national teams and clubs can’t participate in tournaments organised by Fifa and Caf such as the World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations and Caf inter-club competitions, the Champions League and Confederation Cup.

Hiding behind this somewhat flawed provision, most corrupt senior officials of national associations cling on with impunity knowing fully well that Fifa will bat on their side in the event that corrective measures are taken by anyone outside their domestic football governance structures.

Despite the existing possibility that Zimbabwe could have been barred from participating in the Africa Cup of Nations currently underway in Cameroon, the SRC took the arrogant Zifa board head on in November last year by suspending them.

The SRC seems to have done its homework thoroughly as Fifa didn’t come to the rescue of the suspended board in spite of noises being made then.

The Warriors participated in the Afcon and bowed out in the group stage, but the battle for control of the soul of Zifa continues, as the main architects of the current local football chaos have sought to derail every prospect of a return to sanity being pursued.

Although the suspensions affected Zifa president Felton Kamambo, executive committee members Philemon Machana, Bryton Malandule, Sugar Chagonda, Premier Soccer League chairman Farai Jere, Zimbabwe Women Soccer League boss Barbara Chikosi and Stanley Chapeta, only three are at the forefront of resisting the move.

Kamambo, Machana and Malandule have been defiant by throwing spanners into every move to ensure a clean-up of Zifa is conducted, with Chapeta silently supporting them since he knows that his continued role as a board member is now illegal as his co-option was never ratified by councillors within Zifa constitutional timeframes.

Chapeta was co-opted in October last year and an extraordinary congress should have been convened within 60 days to ratify or elect a new board member, according to Article 32.10 of the Zifa constitution, but that didn’t happen.

Chagonda, Chikosi and Jere have accepted their suspensions, which has incensed Kamambo, Machana and Malandule, who now claim to have suspended the three alongside 27 Zifa councillors that called for an EGM.

The so-called suspensions of those seen as ringleaders of calls for an EGM only shows the levels of desperation the three are willing to climb to retain control of domestic football.

Although focus is more on Kamambo, Malandule and Machana for fomenting the present chaos, Zifa councillors should equally shoulder the blame for the role they played in creating monsters at 53 Livingstone House.

The councillors are the ones that elected the executive committee and retain enormous power to recall them should they feel they are not performing to expectations.

However, most choose to remain aloof and await freebies from the executive committee like in 2019 when all councillors were flown to the Afcon in Egypt on a chartered plane.

Most had been awaiting a similar voyage to Cameroon for Afcon, which ends tomorrow when Egypt clash with Senegal in the final, but the SRC upset the apple cart.

Could it be the reason they are now making noise or it’s another Damascene moment as happened in 2016 when councillors forced the removal of the Cuthbert Dube-led board?

It’s understandable that the other 23 councillors that admitted taking money for votes in 2018 would probably not back the removal of the suspended incumbents because their destinies are obviously bound by acts of misconduct.

Demanding fundamental change in how domestic football is run from the suspended Zifa board is a waste of time. They have and continue to prove that they cannot provide the leadership required to safeguard the interests of football in Zimbabwe.

No one seriously expects people that misused the US$1.5 million Fifa Covid-19 relief fund to institute a radical governance review to safeguard the future of Zimbabwean football. It’s tantamount to marking your own homework.

The Covid-19 relief fund was aimed at cushioning the financial impact of the pandemic on domestic football, but due to poor governance and corruption at Zifa, the fund ended up benefiting individuals more than it did deserving recipients.

It’s criminal that individuals at Zifa paid themselves US$20 000 and US$15 000 from the fund, while PSL clubs each got just US$5 500.

Does it mean these six Zifa officials are individually worth more than say Highlanders and Dynamos to be paid three and almost four times more than the clubs?

After all, how were these officials affected by Covid that needed such cushioning when they are not fulltime employees of the association?

This is naked embezzlement, which must be dealt with decisively. And again, what happened to the US$500 000 that Fifa released specifically for women’s football?

There hasn’t been any movement in women’s football since Covid-19 surfaced in Zimbabwe to date, but we are told US$500 000 was disbursed to them.

Where did that money go? It obviously lined the pockets of those seeking to block the restructuring and reformation of Zifa today.

Fifa can be satisfied with financials Zifa availed to them, but those on the ground can’t be fooled and know that a huge chunk was embezzled.

An independent forensic audit of the Zifa finances will reveal the extent of the rot, whose foul smell the suspended executive is trying to suppress.

It’s disappointing that Jere and Chikosi, who are only in the Zifa board as PSL and ZWSL representatives were oblivious to such gross mismanagement and theft.

They can argue that they were outnumbered and outvoted, but to remain tightlipped when such football injustices were being committed makes them willing accomplices.

Could it be that the undeserved financial benefits extended to them clouded their thinking and blocked their voices?
Whatever the case and whatever conclusion the SRC comes up with, what’s evident is that the structure of Zifa needs a complete overhaul for the survival of local football.

Never again must authority to run football be vested in the Zifa executive committee to act with impunity. There must be checks and balances at every level to ensure transparency and confidence in the system so that the largest stakeholders of the game, the players, are not disadvantaged.

The current counter suspensions are just a sideshow to deflect from real crimes committed at 53 Livingstone Avenue.
Arrests must also be made and those found guilty need to serve some jail time for robbing our football what was due to it.

Every dime stolen from the Zifa coffers robs our youths of a future in the game, as development is always the first to suffer in the absence of adequate funds.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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