Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has cranked up pressure on the embattled ZIFA board after Sport, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Tabitha Kanengoni-Malinga told Parliament yesterday that Zimbabwe was ready to bear the cost of a possible suspension from fifa to clean up the mess at 53 Livingstone Avenue.
In the harshest criticism dished out on the country’s under-fire football leadership by a high-ranking Government official, Kanengoni-Malinga told the National Assembly that ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube and his team were “doing nothing for Zimbabwe”.
The latest attack on the ZIFA board comes just a day after Dube defiantly said he would not quit, hiding behind the fifa shield, and criticising the Government for failing to assist his board with the financial resources they needed to take care of national teams.
Dube has come under severe pressure in recent weeks to throw in the towel, with the 2015 Nations Cup finals currently underway in Equatorial Guinea providing another painful reminder of how his leadership has failed a nation that wanted to see their Warriors at the football showcase.
It’s the third straight Nations Cup finals which the Warriors have failed to qualify for, under Dube’s watch, and the senior national team suffered the embarrassment of crashing out in the first round of the preliminary stage of the qualifiers.
Kanengoni-Malinga said Government will invoke the necessary measures, including the dissolution of the ZIFA board, as part of measures to clean up the mess at ZIFA, drawing applause from legislators from across the political divide.
She said although fifa regulations did not allow Government interference from the day-to-day running of national football associations, and were hostile towards governments who dissolve elected Football Association boards, there was need for the nation to bear the cost of a possible suspension from the world football family.
Shurugwi South Member of the National Assembly Tapiwa Matangaidze (Zanu-PF) had asked whether the Government was concerned that ZIFA had caused a lot of suffering, among the country’s football masses in the wake of the national team’s latest failed bid to qualify for the Nations Cup finals.
In her response, during a question and answer session in the National Assembly, Kanengoni-Malinga said Government was not happy with the way the game was being run in the country.
“It is true that as a ministry we are not happy with the way ZIFA is running football affairs,” Kanengoni-Malinga said.
“In terms of fifa regulations, we should not be seen interfering. Our view as Government is that it is better that we are suspended as a country as we clean up the mess at ZIFA.
“When we complete serving the suspension, we will return to international football at a time when we would have strengthened our systems.
“We will not be the first country to be suspended; that has been done to other countries after they felt that it was better to intervene to strengthen their football.”
Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T) weighed in by asking Kanengoni-Malinga to explain the fifa legal statutes which did not allow Government to act in an organisation like ZIFA.
“Fifa stipulates that the Government is not allowed to interfere with the day-to-day running with organisations like ZIFA and we are not allowed to interfere in terms of removing the leadership that has been voted in,” said Kanengoni-Malinga.
“But what we are saying as Government is that we might not be allowed to interfere but we have an opinion and those who voted these people in, namely Cuthbert Dube, should come to their senses and remove these people because they are doing nothing for Zimbabwe.”
Binga North MP, Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC-T), asked whether the Government was not crippled, in terms of intervening in the affairs of ZIFA, by its failure to provide support for the association.
“You are weakened by the lack of support to act and correct the wrong things that are happening at ZIFA,” Dubeko Sibanda said.
Kanengoni-Malinga said although the Government had its financial challenges, they could not just watch and let decay take root in a national organisation like ZIFA.
“I’m sure everyone is aware of the financial challenges that our Government is currently facing but, as a ministry, we are doing our best to try and engage partners that can help us to get funding that will help us lift sport in different areas,” said Kanengoni-Malinga.
“Last year we met with a couple of stakeholders from the private sector who have been participating and are willing to continue participating and we are inviting new players to come on board to uplift sport in this country.
“Our job as a ministry is not to see sport fall.
“We actually want things to work out and I would like to promise you that 2015 is going to bring in bigger and better things because after hosting the AUSC Region 5 Games, very successfully if I may add, we have gained a lot of experience through the process and we intend to use that experience to get better in running our ministry.”
Dube’s army of critics says his biggest weakness is that he is completely divorced from the challenges of a national game he has dragged, using a unique remote-control management style, onto its deathbed in the past five years.
The ZIFA boss has developed his unique way of running the association either from his office, as was the case until January last year, or from his home, where all the board members have to go and meet him every time he wants to discuss something about the game.
Some concerned ZIFA board members raised alarm two weeks ago when they sent an explosive memorandum to Dube and his deputy Omega Sibanda, questioning the way the association was being run and how they have been turned into mere stooges, while chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze runs the show.
Dube and Mashingaidze have been the two high-ranking officials leading the ZIFA ship in the past five years.
Incredibly, Dube is yet to watch the Warriors in action, at home or away since he was one of the VIP guests at the National Sports Stadium in June 2010, when Zimbabwe hosted Brazil in a high-profile exhibition match.
That game, which the Warriors lost 0-3, remains the only one that the national team played, with the ZIFA president in the stands, cheering their efforts, since Dube took over as the leader of the national game in March 2010.
There have been 47 international matches for the Warriors, since that game against Brazil, including friendly matches, and their leader has been a no-show at all these games.