Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
GOVERNMENT has reiterated that it will not interfere in Zifa business despite pressure that has been exerted from many circles to dissolve the leadership led by Cuthbert Dube. Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Andrew Langa told Parliament yesterday that his ministry would not buckle to pressure to intervene directly into ZIFA affairs, but would continue to deal with the problems at the troubled football body through the Sport and Recreation Commission.
Langa’s statement to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sport, Arts and Culture yesterday contradicted what had been said by his deputy Tabitha Kanengoni-Malinga while addressing the national assembly two months ago.
Kanengoni-Malinga told Parliament that Zifa had let the nation down by the way the current leadership has been running football in Zimbabwe.
She said Government was ready to face the consequences from international football mother body, FIFA, and threatened that action could be taken on the association’s leadership to cleanse the game.
However, Langa yesterday said his deputy’s statements could have been misinterpreted as FIFA statutes clearly state that Government should not meddle in the day-to-day running of football associations or risk severe sanctions which include a lengthy ban.
Langa appeared before the committee yesterday together with senior officials from his ministry and Sports Commission director-general Charles Nhemachena.
“My ministry’s position, and not my position as Langa, is that we are dealing with Zifa through SRC and we will not as government disband or dissolve Zifa. Zifa has got its own structures.
“If they are not happy with any person within Zifa, it’s up to them to give that person a vote of no confidence. If the councillors and the other players within Zifa are not happy with the board it’s up to them, as players within Zifa, to dissolve Zifa. I will not, my ministry will not and government will not dissolve Zifa,” said Langa.
“Our position according to Zifa statutes is very clear. Zifa can dissolve themselves if they want to, and there is no issue. The councillors and other players within Zifa can do so, and also there is no issue. I have indicated that I have directed SRC to look into the issues of Zifa and that’s what they are doing now.
“I see no reason I can say before this committee government will disband Zifa. No, and I don’t think that’s what she said. All she said was, if all is not well within Zifa, government may be forced to disband Zifa. That’s what she said. Not that we will disband Zifa, no. We want to be clear as a country,” Langa said.
Zifa have been under intense pressure of late for their failure to manage their business leading to spiralling debts, serious divisions within the board and catastrophic failure by national teams.
Acting chairman of parliamentary portfolio committee on sport Fani Munengami said the ministry has a lot of work to do to bring sanity to the national game. He also said the top officials within the ministry should speak with one voice on matters related to football as Langa’s sentiments seemed to deviate from what was said by his deputy.
“So can we safely say that maybe your deputy was actually speaking not on behalf of the ministry but on her own behalf because when she was asked that question she actually spoke as if she was speaking on behalf of the ministry and surprisingly today you are correctly saying, and we really appreciate what you have said, that as a ministry or even as government you are not going to disband Zifa. So can we say there are sort of disagreements between you and your deputy?
“From you presentation I think there are a lot of loopholes that need to be mended and a lot of work needs to be done by your ministry in order for you to lure investors for the sports.
“We don’t want to hear your deputy minister shooting from the hip and you as the minister from the head. Please try to speak with one voice so that at the end of the day we will be able to promote our sport, especially soccer,” said Munengami.
The legislators were also concerned with the lack of unity among the sports administrators and the discordant Zifa board once again headlined the discussion.
Zifa president Cuthbert Dube acknowledged the cracks within his board and promised to take action on divisive elements while appearing before the same committee last week.
Langa said he had also noted that some of the problems rocking some of the national associations were being fuelled by outside forces.
“The squabbles that are taking place in our national associations are also a concern to us a ministry. A committee is formed today and tomorrow they are already fighting. But I want to believe that all these squabbles are caused by interference, by other people outside the national associations.
“You have given an example of Zifa. The Zifa matter is a major concern to us a ministry, and I know it is a major concern also to all Zimbabweans. We have a situation where the board itself is not in harmony but I’m happy to say that we are trying through the SRC to see that there is unity within Zifa.
“If you destroy football in any given country you will have destroyed sport in that particular country. Obviously we will not allow people to destroy football in this country. But the first thing that we need to do as Zimbabweans, let us help build football in this country.
“Let us not be seized with issues that are not within football in Zimbabwe. As a result we have engaged the SRC to come up with a strategy on how we can investigate, not Zifa, but football within Zimbabwe.
“We are not investigating Zifa per se but we want to find out the issues that are bedevilling football in this country. It calls for us as Zimbabweans to support any association that has been elected by its councillors, by its people and so on.
“But all we can do to sports in this country is to work together especially the sportpersons. Why don’t you give us positive comments on how we can build sports in this country?
“The interference is an issue which is crippling football in this country. All those who think that Cuthbert Dube-led board is not doing well, why don’t they go to them, give them advice, support them, if they are to criticise them why don’t they criticise them positively to build football in this country.’’
The Minsiter also spoke about his series of meetings with the Lifelong Footballers Trust of Zimbabwe, a group of former administrators led by Francis Zimunya, Chris Sambo and Paddington Japajapa that has called for the installation of a caretaker board to run ZIFA.
“We have in this country some parallel structures, people who also purporting to be running football in this country outside Zifa.
“I had meetings with a committee that calls itself Lifelong Footballers Trust, which also wants to run football in this country. I have engaged them and I am happy they are now in talking terms with Zifa on how to build football in this country.
“Fine, they came to my office on several occasions, we have discussed with them and we have advised them that the best way we can build football in this country is that they work within the parameters of Zifa,” said Langa.