Zifa divisions laid bare

Cuthbert Dube address members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, Sport, Arts and Culture in Parliament yesterday

Cuthbert Dube address members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, Sport, Arts and Culture in Parliament yesterday

Deep divisions within the ZIFA board were laid bare in Parliament yesterday on another dramatic appearance by the country’s football leadership in the august house with the association’s president, Cuthbert Dube, threatening to crack the whip on rebellious members.

Dube also promised the parliamentarians that the crippling ZIFA debt will be dissolved within the next six months.

But his assurance, before the parliamentarians, did little to mask the huge cracks within a ZIFA board that has been divided by one group, which is critical of the way chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze is running the show, and another which is in good books with the head of the secretariat. ZIFA vice-president, Omega Sibanda, questioned parliamentary portfolio committee chairman, Temba Mliswa, at the end of the session why he wasn’t given a chance to address the parliamentarians when a board member of women’s football, Cecilia Gambe, was given such an opportunity.

The ZIFA board is expected to hold a no-holds-barred meeting in Harare today.

Ben Gwarada, the ZIFA board member in charge of finance, was grilled by Mliswa, who questioned his competency to handle such a key post, given that he didn’t hold the necessary educational qualifications for the key portfolio.

Gwarada, who had his property attached this week over a debt owed by ZIFA, told the committee that he has been isolated from the association’s financial transactions that were being handled by Dube and Mashingaidze.

“We have shortcomings in terms of corporate governance in our board and this has been discussed before,” Gwarada said.

“Like, at the moment, the finance issues are being handled by the secretariat instead of me as the board member for finance. I have no knowledge of the ZIFA finances and I do not even know the ZIFA bank accounts.

“I do not even know the ZIFA balance sheet and that is the position as of now.”

Gwarada said he had appealed to Dube and the board members but nothing changed.

“My terms of reference are that I have to oversee all the financial matters within ZIFA because I am supposed to be in charge of finances but the finance issues are being handled by Mr Mashingaidze and Dr Dube,” said Gwarada.

“I have engaged president Cuthbert Dube on several occasions about my issues and at one time he called for a meeting with Mashingaidze but to my surprise Mashingaidze could not take heed of what we discussed with the president.”

When asked by Glen North MP, Fani Munengani, why he agreed to join the ZIFA board when he was owed money, Gwarada said he had hoped to turn around the financial fortunes of the association but his efforts were being thwarted by Mashingaidze.

“When I was elected onto the board, there was nothing wrong, in terms of corporate law, to join an organisation that owes you and I actually thought I will come and change things because I had noticed some shortcomings in the way Mashingaidze was running affairs at the association,” said Gwarada.

“Mashingaidze had told the Football Trust that ZIFA was expecting some funds from FIFA and we were all convinced. I then guaranteed the loan.

“Like what Dr Dube said, ZIFA debt bill started at US$6 million but has been reduced to US$4,3 million but the issues have not been resolved because we are not united in the board and I have raised this several times.”

Gwarada said Mashingaidze even left it until late on Wednesday to inform the board members that they were supposed to appear before the committee.

In his response, Mashingaidze said his secretariat had a competent finance department that could run the financial transactions of the association.

Former Premier Soccer League chairman, Tapiwa Matangaidze, who is the Member of Parliament for Shurugwi North, questioned ZIFA’s sincerity in asking for government funding for football yet the association was quick to seek protection from FIFA if Government raised concerns over the way football was being run. Dube said the debt will be liquidated.

“The debt has been set at US$6,5 million over the past year, but the debt has been reduced to US$4,3 million and this is the result of strategies in terms of our engagements,” said Dube, who said that he did not handle the association’s financial affairs but, at the same time, told the parliamentarians that he was spearheading the organisation’s engagement with creditors. “So, what we are envisaging is that by September or October, our debt should be liquidated.

“I am pleased that Honourable Matangaidze was in football before and could be aware that Fifa had at one point completely stopped assisting this country and it was unfortunate for the largest sport.

“We could not let people suffer and not watch football because of mismanagement of funds and that is why we go to FIFA and tell them what is happening like last year they told us to engage our creditors, and to try and get write-offs or make payment plans where it is necessary,” he said.

Dube said property at the Zifa Village and Zifa offices in Harare and Bulawayo had been attached over their slow pace in service debts.

“We have got some property that was attached at the Mt Hampden ZIFA Village, furniture and stoves have gone while at the ZIFA headquarters, furniture was attached and removed.

“In Bulawayo they have also attached furniture while my personal property was also attached because I had guaranteed the national team so that Zimbabwe would not be embarrassed.

“My personal property could have been removed last Friday and it’s a huge embarrassment that you are serving the country but it’s your personal property that is attached and you are bombarded in the media.

“I was talking to vice-president (sibanda) when we were coming in and told him that this issue of disunity in the board should be dealt with once and for all. “We cannot continue to have the game suffering because of personalities.”

Mliswa asked Dube if his bankrolling of the national teams was not a way of seeking to have a strong hold on the association.

“Some people say I was foolish because I had guaranteed ZIFA. I could not afford to see an embarrassment on the part of Government if the national team had failed to travel,” said Dube.

“So I put my property on the line and hoped to quietly talk with the Government to settle. Even my own relatives asked me if I am still okay in my head to guarantee for the Government when I have other relatives who are suffering.

“At one point Tanzania was locked out of the hotel rooms at Pandhari Lodge and I thought it will tarnish the relationship between Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

“I guaranteed immovable house but the property they went for is movable.” — Zimpapers Online