Petros Kausiyo and Eddie Chikamhi
NEARLY a year after they embarked on the final phase of the match-fixing probe, the Zifa Independent Ethics Committee yesterday handed their report to the football association and revealed that they had recommended life bans for 13 Asiagate bigwigs and different long-term prohibitions
for 80 other players and officials they believe are guilty of the scam.
Retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Ahmed Ebrahim, flanked by members of his committee, handed their report to Zifa president Cuthbert Dube and all but one member of his board in the capital yesterday morning, 11 months after being commissioned to finalise the probe.
Only Zimbabwe Women’s Football boss Mavis Gumbo, who is heading a Mighty Warriors delegation in South Africa, was conspicuous by her absence.
Those in the line of fire include Sunday Chidzambwa, the most celebrated football personality in this country, former Warriors’ skipper Method Mwanjali, defender
Thomas Sweswe, suspended Zifa vice-chairman, Kenny Marange, and fellow board members, Methembe Ndlovu and Solomon Mugavazi.
The initial Zifa report into Asiagate named former Zifa chief executive, Henrietta Rushwaya, as the mastermind working closely with the association’s former programmes officer, Jonathan Musavengana.
Justice Ebrahim said they had demanded that the full board be present to receive the report after which Dube and his leadership later went on a retreat just outside town to study the report and the recommendations overnight.
In his remarks, during the handover ceremony, Justice Ebrahim revealed that they had recommended that the Asiagate bigwigs be slapped with life bans whether they be players, coaches or administrators.
Justice Ebrahim also recommended 10-year bans for seven of those implicated, five-year prohibitions for 37 of the culprits while 25 will get two-year bans.
The independent ethics committee chairman said a further eight players would be exonerated from the scam while six of the individuals they found guilty would be handed one-year bans.
Should Zifa adopt the recommendations without amendments, this could effectively end the football careers of some players, coaches and administrators, something that is unprecedented in the history of the domestic game.
Justice Ebrahim also spoke of the challenges they faced in compiling the report which should now help Zifa put a lid to the Asiagate chapter.
“Today will go down as a sad, depressing day in the annals of history of the game of soccer in Zimbabwe.
“My committee has just completed a task which it embarked upon about 11 months ago it has been a tortuous, stressful period in our lives and we have been operating with virtually no resources.
“We have been maligned and some of our members have been libelled. We have received virtually no co-operation in securing documentation to effectively carry out our task from the institutions who we would have expected to provide us with these.
“We have been told that they are not available or that they are missing when we have sought these from a higher authority, externally, the reaction has to say the least been disappointing, we were being told to look at the internet for what you seek or seek these from your domestic body.
“We have faced legal challenges to curtail our existence as a committee in the form of an application for us to recuse ourselves, we have been taken to court in an attempt to stop us from proceeding which resulted in us having to resist with our own financial resources. There has also been an urgent application in an attempt
to interdict us through the courts from continuing with our enquiry.
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“From day one there has been a calculated effort for witnesses we have wished to interview in refusing to co-operate. We have had to use all our skills to circumvent these machinations and today I can inform you that contained in these files are approximately 4 000-4500 pages of exhibits and the evidence of some 115 witnesses,’’ Justice Ebrahim said.
He, however, said the names of those caught on the wrong side of the Asiagate probe would remain confidential as would the contents of the report until the Zifa board had deliberated on it and found a way forward on it.
The Independent Ethics Committee, Justice Ebrahim also said, did not have any apologies for taking time to complete the probe, given the challenges they faced including their failure to find some intricate details of how the national teams were lured into the betting and match-fixing syndicates.
“The committee was formed specifically to undertake enquiries for and on behalf of Zifa to gather information relating to allegations of corruption and match-fixing within the game of football involving the Zimbabwe football national team and others and to make recommendations when enquiries were completed.
“One previous committee (the Ndumiso Gumede committee) had been convened to undertake these enquiries but when they commenced and indeed finished their efforts and submitted their reports, the full extent of the involvement of the allegations was not known. This extent in all probability will continue to remain unknown as it is believed that what the current committee has unearthed may well only be the proverbial tip of the iceberg’.
“The exact and intricate details of how the Zimbabwe teams initially became involved with a match-fixing and betting syndicate which was organised by a man named Wilson Raj Perumal or known to those close to him as Raj based in Singapore and who was involved in the birth of this destructive and illegal activity involving the Zimbabwe national football team may never be known.”
Justice Ebrahim also said his committee had not met with much assistance from the Fifa security division which was previously headed by Chris Eaton and is now under the management of Ralf Mustchke.
“Raj is currently incarcerated in Hungary for his involvement in similar match-fixing exercises involving other countries in Europe. It is a pity that we have not been privy to reports of interviews undertaken with this man by Fifa security officials.
“Had we been placed in possession of details of Raj’s involvement at that time, either by personal interview or from examination of any reports emanating from such an interview by Fifa officials this would most certainly have made our life in this investigation a great deal easier and we would most certainly have had more information to work from and towards, when dealing with our own witnesses. The time span may well have been reduced as well,’’ Justice Ebrahim said.
The committee, Justice Ebrahim also said, believe that Perumal, the architect of the Asiagate scam was introduced to the Warriors by “some existing member of the Zifa hierarchy at some stage several years ago’’.
Ebrahim also blasted the Asiagate masterminds and warned that some Zifa officials and administrators risked ruining their careers and reputations because of their involvement with the Asiagate bigwigs in the scandal.
“Some officials and players will undoubtedly have their football careers ruined by these greedy despicable ruthless and unfeeling miscreants. It is doubtful if these people will ever have the slightest thought of recompensing these young footballers who will no doubt be disadvantaged in the future.”
In accepting the report, Zifa president Dube said they were relieved that the “sad chapter of the Asiagate investigations’’ has finally come to conclusion.
Dube praised the committee for their job and said the board would need to study the report in depth before deciding on the way forward.
“We are very pleased that the Asiagate saga has come to a close, which I believe is a logical conclusion. It took quite a long time since we commissioned you judge (Ebrahim) to do the onerous task.
“I know from across the country that there has been anxiety that the Asiagate investigations were taking too long but we have been in constant consultation with the committee.
“Bearing in mind that this was an independent committee we did not want to find ourselves interfering with their deliberations. But never mind the delay. We also wanted the report earlier,” said Dube.
“Copies of the report will also be sent to the Sport and Recreation Commission, Cosafa, Caf and Fifa’’.
Dube said Zifa would not stop in their efforts until they cleanse the game of the corruption, which has also spread to the lower divisions.
“I think the committee has done a pretty good job from the onerous task that we had given them under the circumstances. They were not paid their fees regularly.
We were doing it in bits and pieces just to keep them going even when the going was tough,” said Dube.
Zifa Indepedent Ethics Committee recommendations:
· Life ban from all football activities – 13
· Ten year ban from all football activities – 7
· Five year ban from all football activities – 37
· Two year ban from all football activities – 25
· Two year ban from all football activities with suspension – 2
· One year ban from all football activities – 6
· One year ban from all football activities with suspension – 2
· Six month ban from all football activities – 6
v Players exonerated – 8