Is this a game changer?

tapiwa matangaidze

Tapiwa Matangaidze

Sikhumbuzo Moyo in BULAWAYO
ONE of the biggest critics of the way ZIFA have been managing their debt crisis, former Premier Soccer League chairman Tapiwa Matangaidze, has been appointed chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, Sport, Arts and Culture in what could be a game changer for the bankrupt association.

Matangaidze’s elevation to the chairmanship of the portfolio committee comes in a decisive week for Zimbabwean football, with ZIFA councillors set to hold a crucial meeting in Harare tomorrow where the explosive issue of the weight of the crippling debt that the association has been carrying on its shoulders will be a major item on the agenda.

It also comes in the week that FIFA, once again, told ZIFA that there would be no bailout from the world football governing body and warned the association that it was sitting on a time bomb which could explode any minute now unless radical measures are taken by the domestic game’s leadership.

FIFA officials, who were in Harare this week to discuss ZIFA’S financial woes, warned that there was a very strong likelihood the association could be declared bankrupt, and struck off the world football governing body’s family.

The serious financial mess that the association finds itself in right now was once again highlighted on Wednesday night when Prophet Walter Magaya provided a last-minute bailout for ZIFA to send the Warriors to the COSAFA Cup in South Africa.

It’s the second time in about a month that Magaya has bailed out ZIFA to enable a national football team to fulfil its commitments after the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance leader poured a substantial amount into the coffers of the association to enable the Mighty Warriors to play their Africa Games tie against Ghana.

Matangaidze takes over from Temba Mliswa, who lost his Parliamentary seat following his expulsion from the ruling party zanu-pf, and Speaker of the House of Assembly Jacob Mudenda announced the elevation of the Shurugwi South representative in Parliament on Wednesday.

“I have to inform the House that the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders has nominated the following, Matangaidze is now the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education, Sport, Arts and Culture,” said Mudenda as he named other portfolios’ members.

Matangaidze recently called for ZIFA to be declared insolvent.

“ZIFA, with a debt overhead of $6 million, is insolvent. Recently, we have read of attempts to spin the figure of $4 million. Regardless, the Association is insolvent,” Matangaidze wrote.

“ZIFA’s continued financial transactions with other organisations, and companies in this country, clearly expose those firms and entities.

“However, should one, two of several of ZIFA’s creditors call for its liquidation and the appointment of a Judicial Manager, in the interim, surely, this can never be misconstrued to be Government intervention.

“ZIFA’S creditors have a right at law to be protected by the country’s judicial system. The creditors gave a service to ZIFA in good faith and, in a normal business transaction. The creditors have a right to be paid.

“Our laws, just like laws in other countries are very clear on creditor/debtor relationships. As things stand now, ZIFA simply has no capacity to pay off its debts.

“If ZIFA has well-wishers, locally and internationally, Mr (Cuthbert) Dube included, who can settle the debts, then by all means, let it be done quickly failing which I humbly submit the following for the football community’s debate:

a) That, at least, one of ZIFA’S creditors petition the courts for its compulsory liquidation and the appointment of a Judicial Manager.

b) The Judicial Manager, so appointed, should engage FIFA in pursuing options to fund and and reconstruct ZIFA.

c) That ZIFA Board Members and Councillors be appraised of the implications of specification with regards to the people at the helm of liquidated organisations.”

ZIFA Councillors have now taken the initiative to address that by holding their meeting in Harare tomorrow to discuss their organisation’s stricken state and the dangers of being part of this organisation when it goes down.

FIFA have backed the ZIFA councillors to hold their indaba tomorrow, as long as they form a quorum, and issued a chilling warning the association could be declared bankrupt and struck off the membership of the international football family.

The issue of the ZIFA Extraordinary Meeting, called for by about half the ZIFA Council to discuss the state of football in the country, was discussed yesterday at a meeting between the ZIFA Board and a FIFA delegation that was in Harare this week.

Thierry Regenass, the FIFA director of member associations and development, Zelklifi Ngoufonja, the FIFA senior development manager for Africa and Ashford Mamelodi, the FIFA development manager for East and Southern Africa, have been meeting ZIFA and Government officials.

They discussed the state of football in this country, especially the crippling ZIFA debt that has been weighing down on the association, and how the organisation can pluck itself out of the financial challenges they find themselves in.

But while the FIFA delegation expected to find a bad situation, they are unlikely to have imagined the situation would be as horrible, as is the case right now, and matters came to a head when the Zurich representatives met the ZIFA Board at the ZIFA Village.

“The FIFA officials clearly said they were surprised the recommendations they tabled, for ZIFA to try and raise funds when they last came here, were not implemented and we continue to pile more debt on the association,” said sources.

“They said we can’t continue running huge costs, in terms of fielding national teams in every competition, when what we are simply doing is piling on the debt and it has reached a point where it has become unmanageable.

“They told us that we are sitting on a time bomb, which can explode any time, and there is a very strong likelihood that ZIFA could be declared bankrupt and that comes with a huge cost because you are struck off the FIFA register until you put yourself into a position that you can sustain yourself.

“They also said we could dissolve ourselves and then return under a different identity, an association that won’t be liable to the debt that we have right now, and the president (Dube) asked about what will happen to his properties, whose title deeds are being held by banks in relation to ZIFA debts, and the FIFA officials said that’s an internal issue we have to sort out.

“What is very clear is that we have a very, very grave situation and the FIFA officials came face-to-face with far more than what they expected and it’s very clear the report they are going to compile, about their visit here, will make very depressing reading.”