Minister defends Zifa deal

Makhosini Hlongwane

Makhosini Hlongwane

Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
SPORT and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane says ZIFA’s new multi-million-dollar partnership with sponsors from United Arab Emirates will not expose domestic football to Asia’s shadowy match-fixing agents.

Hlongwane said all the necessary security and early warning measures to protect the country’s flagship sport had been put in place.

The minister said it was also important that Zimbabwe should not only concentrate on safeguarding the interests of football but every sporting discipline, including tennis, cricket and rugby.

Last week, ZIFA signed a multi-million — dollar deal with an Asian firm for an annual tournament that will be known as the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Intercontinental tourney to feature African and Asian national teams.

Hlongwane told parliament yesterday that measures have been put in place to safeguard the integrity of that tournament.

The minister was responding to a question raised by the Glen View North legislator Fani Munengami when his Ministry appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Sport yesterday.

The Committee was chaired by acting chairperson and Kadoma Central legislator Phanuel Phiri.

“A few years back a Cup from Asia resulted in Asiagate and everyone is aware it is a syndicate involving a lot of money and so what security measures were put in this Afro-Asia Cup so that we will not be in the same scenario?” Munengami asked.

But Hlongwane allayed any fears that the marriage between ZIFA and United Arab Emirates firm, Total Sports Marketing, would bring a host of match-fixing agents.

The marketing company also sponsors Zimbabwe Cricket.

“I must tell you that before we signed that Memorandum of Understanding I agonised exactly around that issue that you raised,” said Hlongwane.

“For a long time I refused to sign as I still felt we didn’t have enough substance in the MOU.

“I am very alive to that. I am alive to the possibility of that happening. In the MOU, we have put enough legal safeguards to make sure that does not happen.

“One of the clauses actually speaks explicitly to the issue of corruption. It is very clear in the MOU and we will give you a copy of that so that you can also have a closer look at it.”

The Mberengwa East legislator said his ministry is in the process of trying to come up with a Bill that will address match-fixing in sport.

“The second thing is we are going to, again with your assistance, assistance of the ( Education and Sport) Committee, we are going to be bringing to the Parliament, a separate Bill altogether or as part of the repel of the present Sport and Recreation Commission Act, principles on match fixing, so that match fixing is governed by the Act of Parliament and is punishable,” said Hlongwane.

“We think that is crucial so that we arrest misdemeanour’s that happen in all sport codes around match fixing, it may happen in cricket, it may happen in football or it may happen in rugby and other sporting codes.”

FIFA and CAF have approved the tournament which will rake in $3 million for ZIFA annually from staging it here.

The continental body have since cleared Zimbabwe to host the competition between June and July.

ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa, his board member Edzai Kasinauyo and chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze travelled to Dubai for the negotiations before the deal was signed in Harare on February 9.

It will run until February 9, 2023.

And the agreement is in two parts, if the eight teams are involved, four from Africa and as many from Asia, the amount would be $40 million.

If it attracts 16 teams the money would range from $80-$100 million.

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