Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
ZIFA board member Edzai Kasinauyo was suspended yesterday after the country’s football governing body said it has busted a sophisticated match-fixing syndicate that had targeted, among other games, to manipulate Zimbabwe’s 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers against Swaziland this month.
The match-fixing ring, according to ZIFA, allegedly also features Warriors’ assistant coach Nation Dube, former Warriors’ coach Ian Gorowa, a former high-ranking employee of the association, previously heavily implicated in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal, and two current employees of the country’s football governing body.
The association also claim that a number of South Africa-based players, notably goalkeeper George Chigova and defender Partson Jaure, are also heavily implicated in the scam that has targeted matches in the South African Premiership and the Warriors.
The players are said to have been promised $5 000 each to dance to the tune of the underworld bosses.
An unnamed Italian international, who is resident in South Africa, is also reported to have been the ring- leader of the match-fixing scam and provided funding for the operation that targeted Super Diski matches, the 2015 COSAFA Cup tournament, the 2016 African Nations Championship and matches involving the Warriors.
A dossier that contains tapped telephone conversations, e-mails and sworn affidavits is at the heart of the crackdown which, according to sources who spoke to The Herald last night, involved the participation of the country’s security organs to trap the suspects.
Surveillance on the suspects has been going on for more than a month and, this week, it was decided that there was enough evidence to nail the suspects and, crucially, also ensure that the Warriors’ key 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers against Swaziland, during the Easter weekend, were not compromised.
Sports and Recreation Minister Makhosini Holongwane was yesterday briefed of the ongoing investigation, and the six suspects who are alleged to be part of the match-fixing ring, just before the ZIFA Board met and wielded the axe on Kasinauyo.
The former Zimbabwe international, who has also worked as a player agent specialising in recruiting a number of local footballers into the South African Premiership, was handed his suspension letter yesterday.
He did not attend the ZIFA Board meeting that decided to push him out of domestic football’s leadership.
ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze posted a statement on the association’s official website yesterday confirming Kasinauyo’s suspension and also revealing that investigations were underway.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association Executive Committee would like to inform the football fraternity and the nation at large that following its meeting held in Harare today (Tuesday, March 08 2016), it has provisionally suspended Executive Committee member Edzai Kasinauyo,” Mashingaidze said in his statement.
“The suspension has been occasioned by allegations of match-fixing ahead of the 2017 Orange Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match between Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
“Mr Kasinauyo has been fingered in the match-fixing scam and investigations are going on.
“The ZIFA president, Dr Philip Chiyangwa, will issue a statement after consultations with COSAFA, CAF, FIFA and (the) Government of Zimbabwe.”
The Herald, though, was informed that the scam centres around six officials – Kasinauyo, Gorowa, Dube, a former high-ranking ZIFA employee, two current ZIFA employees – and a number of Zimbabwean international footballers based in South Africa.
Gorowa coached the Warriors as they reached the semi-finals of the 2014 CHAN finals in South Africa, finishing fourth behind bronze medallists Nigeria and the two finalists, Ghana and Libya, where Chigova and Jaure had outstanding tournaments leading to his recruitment by the South African Premiership clubs.
He was also in charge of the Warriors in the 2015 Nations Cup campaign where Zimbabwe crashed out in the preliminary round after losing to Tanzania, going down 0-1 in the first leg in Dar es Salaam and then only drawing 2-2 at the National Sports Stadium.
No comment could be obtained from Gorowa, who has of late been in charge of South African side Moroka Swallows, before walking out on the Dube Birds.
Gorowa had a strained relationship with the previous ZIFA Board, who did not play him for more than nine months of the time he was in charge of the Warriors, and his relationship with them ended in acrimony with the former ZIFA president even accusing the gaffer of allegedly moonlighting as a player agent during his time as national team coach.
But Kasinauyo said he would issue a detailed response after consultations with his lawyers.
“Obviously, this is very sensitive issue, with far-reaching consequences, because it gets to the heart of my integrity, not only as a person but also as a football leader, and I can only confirm that I was handed a suspension today for allegedly being involved in match-fixing,” said Kasinauyo.
“It’s something that I need to discuss with my lawyers before any response that I can make but I have to tell you that I am in shock, total shock, because I have never been involved in such things all my life and the only relief that I have right now is that I am being told there is evidence and that will paint the correct picture and help set me free.”
The match-fixing ring, according to sources, was also very daring they even targeted matches at the 2015 COSAFA Cup, including those that did not involve Zimbabwe’s Warriors, and some matches at the 2016 CHAN finals.
It was not immediately clear whether they succeeded in manipulating the international matches although there was strong suspicion that they could have done so in some of the South African Premiership games that they targeted.
Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa provided a detailed sworn affidavit in which he is said to have implicated Gorowa, Kasinauyo and his hand-picked assistant, Nation Dube, in the scam and the pressure that was exerted on him to be part of the scandal and how he refused to plunge into the underworld.
Dynamos ‘keeper Tatenda Mukuruva also provided a detailed sworn affidavit in which he narrated how he was approached by the suspects to dance to their tune, in the event he was selected to play for the Warriors in the game against Swaziland, including a week-long stint in South Africa where he would have received coaching by some experts on how to play according to instructions without triggering alarm.
Mukuruva, who turned down the approaches of the suspects, also handed in recorded phone conversations which sources said also implicated Gorowa and Nation Dube.
Yesterday’s dramatic events could not have come at a worse time for Kasinauyo, whose candidature for the ZIFA Board was backed by Warriors’ legend Peter Ndlovu, regarded by many as the greatest Warrior of all time, as he was facing the sack from the domestic football leadership over a controversy related to how he ended up in Zurich, Switzerland, for the FIFA Congress.
Although the FIFA Congress was only for the ZIFA president, Chiyangwa, vice-president Omega Sibanda and chief executive Mashingaidze, whose expenses were paid for by FIFA, Kasinauyo and his fellow board member, Philemon Machana, also travelled to Zurich at the association’s expense.
Machana has reimbursed the association after Chiyangwa was infuriated that the duo raided the depleted coffers, including offering themselves out-of-pocket allowances, using funds that had been set aside for the Mighty Warriors to travel to Tanzania.