Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Acting Sports Editor
FOUR Caps United players who assaulted a referee and other officials before paying admission of guilt fines at Mzilikazi Police Station have been found not guilty by the Premier Soccer League disciplinary committee.
Carlos Rusere, John Zhuwawo, Dominic Chungwa and Ronald Chitiyo were acquitted by the committee chaired by Raphael Tsivama on charges of breaching the Premier Soccer League Rules and Regulations following their 0-1 defeat to Chicken Inn at Barbourfields Stadium on October 23. A former senior police officer, Brighton Mudzamiri, also sits on the committee.
It has turned out that the players were charged in terms of non-existent Order 126.96.36.199 of the PSL rules and regulations. Also, the referee, Happy Mabhena, who was supposed to give evidence at the hearing and was booked at a Harare hotel is said to have got lost in the capital before his mobile phone went off.
The players’ acquittal, however, came after they each paid $100 in fines at Mzilikazi Police Station CR 136/10/19 in Bulawayo. When appearing before the PSL disciplinary committee, the four accused pleaded not guilty.
“The relevant facts as set out in the charge sheet are that after the referee had blown his whistle to end the match, Dominic Chungwa (jersey number 9) and John Zhuwawu (jersey number 21) incited the other players to beat the match officials, pulling the referee by the neck and poking his right eye. The referee is reported to have said the Caps United players became more violent when they had then been joined by their team’s marshals and taking the lead in that regard were Ronald Chitiyo (jersey number 10) and Carlos Rusere (jersey number 23). When the players got to the dressing room entrance they started assaulting Chicken Inn officials,” reads the disciplinary committee’s outline.
It said in their defence, the accused, through their administration manager, a Dodzo, stated that the referee was not assaulted or even touched and was, in fact, escorted to the dressing room by the Caps United team manager and a Chicken Inn official, not because of any untoward conduct by the players, but out of an abundance of caution because the conduct of Caps United fans of throwing missiles following the referee’s decision to award a penalty to Chicken Inn had caused even the police to be on high alert.
“To support its allegations, the prosecution, led by Memory Mukapa, led evidence from the match commissioner, Sabelo Maphosa, who testified that the police were slow to react to protect the match officials. She stated that Caps United players confronted the referee after the final whistle and the assistant referees followed to protect their colleague. At about the same time officials from both teams quickly moved in leading the referee safely to the dressing room. The match commissioner further testified that she did not see anyone threaten or manhandle the referee and followed to the dressing room where she proceeded to ask him (the referee) if he had been manhandled. He responded that he had not and was alright and she went back to the stands to ascertain what was going on there,” reads the committee’ outline.
Maphosa told the committee that it was only when she returned to the dressing room that she was told by the fourth official that Caps United players wearing jersey numbers 10, 22 and 23 had assaulted some Chicken Inn officials.
“It was obvious from the match commissioner’s testimony that she neither witnessed any assault or intimidation nor received any report to that effect from the referee or any other official. In fact, the match commissioner’s testimony not only corroborated the defence but actually exonerated them of the preferred charges.
The situation was not helped by the fact that the referee himself was not available to give evidence. According to the match commissioner she had called the referee with a view to travelling with him for the hearing from Bulawayo but he would not answer his mobile phone or when he did, would give the impression that he had other business to attend to first. There was no clear explanation why the referee was not available for the hearing because the last time the referee had communicated with the PSL had been two hours earlier, he was getting into Harare and so should have arrived shortly after the hearing had commenced at 5.45PM” the disciplinary committee said.
According to the judgment, the PSL had managed to communicate with the referee on not more than three occasions on the day of the hearing, apparently because his phone needed to be charged.
“Therefore in the absence of any evidence implicating the accused persons, the committee has no option but to acquit the accused persons. In the circumstances the accused persons are found not guilty and are hereby acquitted,” said the committee in its judgment delivered on November 29.