Robson Sharuko, Eddie Chikamhi and Grace Chingoma
GOVERNMENT has said there is prima facie evidence to suggest that a cartel, involving some local football administrators and coaches and some shadowy international gangsters, ran a match-fixing ring that attempted to manipulate the outcome of football matches.
The cartel, according to the Government, might have tried to, or even influenced, matches involving the Warriors at the recent CHAN finals, and were en-route to trying to fix the 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers between Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
Evidence on hand, said the Government, appears to suggest that the cartel even influenced the outcome of the high-profile friendly international between Zimbabwe and Brazil in 2010 which the Samba Boys won 3-0 at the National Sports Stadium.
Sports and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane told reporters in Harare yesterday that he had gleaned some of the evidence that ZIFA are banking their case on and, on face value, there appears to be strong criminal case and the suspects should face the music.
ZIFA have already suspended their board member Edzai Kasinauyo and axed Warriors assistant coach Nation Dube while naming, and shaming, their former chief executive, Henrietta Rushwaya, as one of the suspects in the match-fixing cartel. Former Warriors coach Ian Gorowa has also been implicated in the scandal. Hlongwane said, unlike the Asiagate scandal that collapsed without any conviction, the local authorities had engaged FIFA — whose refusal to endorse the Asiagate sanctions was key in the collapse of the case — from day one.
The minister, however, said the measures that the Government, working in collaboration with ZIFA and other domestic agencies, have put in place should ensure that the big games against Swaziland were not manipulated with Hlongwane saying there was no need for fans to begin to question the commitment of the players who will be called to play in those games.
He said the players who are going to be called into camp should also not be put under undue pressure by the dramatic events that erupted this week and should, instead, shame those who wanted to manipulate the results by winning the matches for their country.
Hlongwane said he has advised ZIFA to report the case to the police to launch a criminal investigation and he has also briefed Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo and Attorney-General Prince Machaya on the unfolding scandal.
The Sports Minister said the Government was united in condemning those who were involved in the latest scandal and promised there would be no sacred cows with those caught on the wrong side of the law being punished heavily.
ZIFA have indicated that the accused people will have to appear before their Disciplinary Committee to answer the allegations and then police will be called in later but Hlongwane yesterday said the nature of the allegations needed the law enforcement agents to come in quickly.
“Basically, our intention as Government is that if the evidence can be verified by the law enforcement agents, if it can be corroborated and they can be able to put it together in a manner that enables them to secure a conviction in a court of law on the back of corrupt allegations, we will be very happy that the process does take place,” said Hlongwane.
“I had an opportunity to brief the Acting President (Mnangagwa) last night (Wednesday), myself and my team, together with the evidence provided by ZIFA and I can tell you that the attitude within Government is that this must stop and it must stop yesterday and there are no sacred cows.
“It does not matter who is involved in this as it would seem, if this is true, it would mean that we have been for a long time been arrested to sub-optimal performance on the back of direction by actors that are outside of the football movement and it’s very unfortunate that we have allowed ourselves to sink that low.
“Our attitude is that this matter has to be dealt with expeditiously, we have to be much more diligent and we must make sure that all those involved are certainly, with finality, brought to book,” said Hlongwane. According to the evidence at hand, it is alleged that this match-fixing cartel has targeted the Warriors matches as far back as 2010, including the exhibition game against Brazil, and has also infiltrated the South African Premiership where some of the players are based.
Hlongwane yesterday shed more light on the intentions to fix the upcoming Afcon qualifiers against Swaziland and gave details of how one local player was allegedly approached and told to play in a certain way so that Zimbabwe would lose 2-0. The player was promised money and invited to fly to South Africa to get the instructions.
More players were approached in South Africa but one of them refused outright and threatened to call the police before the agent who was sent to meet him ran away.
The players alerted coach Callisto Pasuwa who then blew up the plot.
The minister also pointed out that the African Nations Championship finals matches in Rwanda could have been fixed.
Hlongwane admitted Zimbabwe football was under siege and efforts are being made to institute legal frameworks to curb match-fixing in the country.
Hlongwane, who recently appeared before Parliament where he spoke of the match-fixing Bill, said the recent developments calls for speedy intervention by the Government.
“It emboldens us that our direction as Government is correct, that our intentions are well intended that we should not find ourselves in a situation where we are without legal instruments at our disposal to be able to intervene in issues that are of a technical nature.
“The issue of a match fixing Bill clearly addresses matters related to curbing match fixing and becomes very important and crucial.
“In the discussion that I had this afternoon with the Attorney-General and in that discussion we have agreed that we must now move with speed to make sure that that law is now put in place so that it strengthens our position as Government in terms of dealing with these criminal activities.
“That certainly is in the pipeline. In the interim, I have agreed with the Attorney-General that we need to look at the possibility of a Statutory Instrument.
“I have directed my office to put together the basis of the principles for coming up with that Statutory Instrument so that we can either use that Statutory Instrument alongside certain primary legislation to deal with that matter or we go straight to issues around anti-corruption legislation to deal with this,” said Hlongwane. The minister said Government was convening a convention on match fixing and other forms of cheating in sport and recreation in the next few days.
The convention is expected to trigger and install a robust conversation on match fixing and other forms of cheating in sport within and without the sports and recreation movement.
“The convention should also come up with clear resolutions that inform the development of a national strategy on match fixing.
“Government is calling upon all national sport associations to install an early warning system to detect match fixing, doping and other forms of malady in sport,” said Hlongwane.