Robson Sharuko in HARARE and Sikhumbuzo Moyo in BULAWAYO—
THE Sports Commission have flexed their muscles and ordered ZIFA to prove that their contentious assembly meeting scheduled for Harare on Saturday, which critics say is meant to purge three board members who have fallen out with chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze, is not in violation of the associationâs constitution.
The heat on Mashingaidze increased yesterday after it emerged that he turned to his bag of lies, his favourite fire-fighting tool, in an embarrassing spin-doctoring exercise as he tried to put a spin to the humiliation that followed last weekâs attachment of ZIFA president Cuthbert Dubeâs of property for a debt owed by the association.
Mashingaidze cooked up an outrageous excuse that Dubeâs property was attached because he stepped in to help ZIFA avoid a possible ban from CAF, after Tanzania were locked out of their Harare hotel when they came here for a 2015 Nations Cup qualifier last May, when the High Court order used by the Sheriff to raid his bossâ house, related to summons issued in October 2013.
Although the High Court order, which eventually gave the Sheriff of the High Court of Zimbabwe the green light to raid Dubeâs property was issued by Justice Lavender Makoni on January 21 this year, the case related to summons that had been issued in October 2013 â eight months before the Tanzania national team arrived in Harare.
The order, seen by The Herald, reads:
âIt is ordered that the application for summary judgment be and is hereby granted. The respondents (ZIFA and Dr Dube) shall pay to the applicant (Pandhari Lodge), jointly or severally the one paying the other, to be absolved the sum of US$268 435,57 together with interest at the prescribed rate of 5 percent per annum from the date of summons (October 24, 2013) to the date of full and final payment . . .â
However, Mashingaidzeâs statement on Monday, three days after the raid on Dubeâs property, was a deliberate distortion of the matter at hand, something that the ZIFA chief executive is an expert in doing, even in such sensitive legal issues.
âOn Friday, the Sheriff intended to remove Dr Dubeâs property over the associationâs debt to hospitality firm, Pandhari Lodge,â Mashingaidze said in his statement.
âIt was an embarrassing episode for the president to face the probable loss of his hard-earned assets as a result of ZIFAâs debt.
âTherefore, we would like to apologise to him for the embarrassment and denigration such an unfortunate occurrenceÂ might have caused to him and his family.
âDr Dube had acted as the guarantor for the debt in question ahead of the Warriorsâ 2015 AFCON qualifier with Tanzania.
âThe President saved ZIFA from CAF and FIFA sanctions as the Tanzania national team had been denied entry.
âThe saga had also sucked in Tanzaniaâs ambassador to Zimbabwe prompting the President to intervene and avoid a diplomatic fall out by eventually presenting his personal assets as surety.
âThe Tanzanians were therefore granted accommodation on credit with the promise of a later payment to the service provider (Pandhari Lodge).â
Mashingaidze appears to suggest that hotel accommodation for the Tanzanians, for the few days they were in Harare, cost US$281 000.
However, the debt has been accruing long before the Tanzanians were here and, as the High Court order shows, Dube had acted as guarantor before October 24, 2013 â eight months before the Taifa Stars arrived at Pandhari Lodge.
ZIFA have been using the hotel for some time now.
In July 2012, the Deputy Sheriff raided ZIFA and attached property after the association failed to pay the US$57 232.62 that it owed Pandhari Lodge.
Mashingaidze has been at the centre of the drama that has been playing out at ZIFA with the association vice president, Omega Sibanda and women football boss, Miriam Sibanda, questioning his competency to run the secretariat.
The women football chief, even claimed publicly last week that Mashingaidze lied to Parliament that he had disbursed FIFA funds, meant for women football development, to her sector.
Mashingaidze, who enjoys the support of Dube, appears to have turned the tables on the board members who now face censure at the contentious assembly meeting on Saturday.
However, that meeting might not go ahead as scheduled if ZIFA fail to prove that holding it was not a violation of their constitution.
Edward Siwela, the Sports Commission boss, issued a chilling warning yesterday that, even if the indaba went ahead against a background of a violation of the ZIFA constitution, any resolutions from that meeting would be deemed null and void.
ZIFA vice president Sibanda, board member in charge of finance Ben Gwarada, who has been isolated from the ZIFA financial transactions since he was elected onto that post in March last year, and women football chief, Sibanda, are being targeted in the purge.
Hawks within ZIFA have been pushing for the extra-ordinary meeting, even though it violates the associationâs constitution, hoping to whip a compromised assembly into issuing a vote of confidence to show their support of the associationâs president, Cuthbert Dube, and push the three board members out of the gameâs leadership.
According to Article 28 of the ZIFA Constitution, there are two scenarios in which an extra-ordinary general meeting can be called, first by the executive committee (board), which didnât do that, and secondly if two thirds of the assembly decide to have such an indaba, which isnât the case here either.
Even then, it should be held three months after the request has been given.
âThe executive committee shall convene an extra-ordinary congress if one third of the members of ZIFA make such a request in writing,â reads the ZIFA constitution.
âThe request shall specify the items for the agenda. An extra-ordinary congress shall be held within three months of receipt of the request. If an extra-ordinary congress is not convened, the members who requested it may convene the congress themselves.
âAs a last resort, the members may request assistance from CAF or FIFA.â
Part Three says the members shall be notified of the place, date and agenda at least 14 days before the date of an extra-ordinary congress.
It has since emerged that the meeting was not called by the members (councillors), let alone the executive committee (board members). The 14 days notice was also not given to the members.
Some ZIFA board members distanced themselves from the meeting, saying there were not consulted and neither did they call for it as a full ZIFA board.
âWhat we gather is that the chief executive officer (Mashingaidze) is saying the meeting should have been held in November last year hence the three months notice is sufficing, but in that event, we should be having the same agenda that was set for the November meeting, but itâs not the case here, meaning itâs a new meeting altogether,â said a ZIFA councillor.
Siwela said they had asked for answers from Dube and they expected a reply today.
âJust this morning I ordered our director-general (Charles) Nhemachena to look into this whole issue, he will confront the association president himself and if, indeed, the constitution was violated then as SRC we might be forced to come in,â Siwela said.
âWhat is paramount though is that people must know that the role of the SRC is mainly advisory, it should be the membership of ZIFA (councillors) who must write and raise these issues that there has been a blunt disregard of the constitution.
âBut in the event the meeting goes ahead then surely whatever decisions would have been taken during such an unconstitutional meeting must not take force because the meeting would have been just an illegal gathering.â
The Sports Commission boss refuted claims that they were folding their arms while the ZIFA leadership flagrantly violated its own constitution.
âItâs not that we are doing nothing about it, certainly not. There cannot be any talk of corporate governance without the rule of law,â he said.