Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter—
TWINE PHIRI has come out guns blazing, insisting he is on a sabbatical from football and has distanced himself from the showdown that has exploded between ZIFA and their former chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze. The former CAPS United owner has found himself being dragged into a plot to undermine and discredit the current ZIFA board led by Philip Chiyangwa, amid revelations by Mashingaidze that he had been working closely with the ex-Premier Soccer League chairman in trying to secure FIFA intervention on the matter.
Phiri yesterday came out of his shell and maintained that he had nothing to do with the saga between ZIFA and Mashingaidze that is threatening to turn ugly, with the association’s former chief executive making a host of allegations of impropriety against his former bosses. Mashingaidze has also claimed constitutional flaws in the way ZIFA have convened their annual meeting set for Harare on Saturday.
The maverick Mashingaidze also revealed that apart from Phiri, he was working with one of ZIFA’s creditors, Daisy Rusere, of Daisy Guest Lodge in his battle against the association. Phiri yesterday said he has taken a deserved sabbatical from football and does not take lightly to his name being dragged into politics of the game.
In a veiled response to the claims made by Mashingaidze that he was part of the delegation that travelled to Botswana to see former FIFA representative Ashford Mamelodi with grievances against the ZIFA, Phiri said people should respect his decision to take a break from the administration of the game.
The former CAPS United boss has been in the shadows ever since he lost his position as PSL chairman last year. Phiri said he is enjoying time with his family and with football out of his sight, he is channelling all his energies to his business. “Truly speaking, ever since I decided to step aside to take a rest, I shut my ears and closed my eyes to anything that has to do with football. Of course here and there I read the back pages, but I have nothing to do with football at the moment.
“I don’t want my name being dragged into football politics. I have said it before that I am on sabbatical. I have been in football for long and I feel I deserve this rest. At the moment, I’m only concentrating on my family and my business and I’m enjoying it. Of course there may be some people who may want to see me back in football, but it’s unfortunate I have taken a decision. But when the right time comes, I will return, probably next year. I am a football person. I have run one of the biggest teams in Zimbabwe, I have been an administrator for a long time and I brought sponsorship to the league,” said Phiri.
Phiri’s name featured prominently in the scathing attack made by Mashingaidze on his former employers at ZIFA, whom he accused of being unprofessional and liable to the problems facing Zimbabwean football. Mashingaidze wrote a 13-page letter addressed to the ZIFA congress and also copied to some key institutions such as FIFA, CAF, Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation, Sports Commission, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and to parliament.
In his acknowledgements, Mashingaidze also revealed that he travelled to Botswana together with Phiri, and one of the ZIFA creditors Daisy Rusere to present their grievances to Mamelodi. “Yes, I can confirm that I authored that document after consultations with various football stakeholders. I, alongside Mr Twine Phiri and Mrs Daisy Rusere, travelled to Botswana to see the FIFA regional representative Ashford Mamelodi on the allegations that are contained in that document.
“We will also be meeting the new Minister of Sport, Arts and Recreation Kazembe Kazembe, special advisor to the President Cde Christopher Mutsvangwa, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, FIFA and the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee this month and in January to save our football,” said Mashingaidze.
ZIFA have since dismissed Mashingaidze’s claims as a case of sour grapes and charged that the former chief executive, who is facing possible fraud charges involving $700 000, is bitter that his contract was not renewed when it expired last year. It has also emerged that ZIFA have instituted litigation against Mashingaidze, whom they accuse of fraudulent activities during his tenure as the ZIFA chief executive.
The association also believe Mashingaidze has been working in cahoots with some creditors to exaggerate ZIFA’s indebtedness, with the Chiyangwa board also still wondering how a debt that was $600 000 in 2010 dramatically rose to $6 million by 2015. In their spirited defence, ZIFA have said Mashingaidze should actually pay them back, instead of the $80 000 he is claiming from the association as outstanding salaries.
“Claimant (Mashingaidze) is not owed any outstanding salaries for the period between August 2014 and April 2016 in the amount claimed for the reason that in terms of the SRC Report of 2015, a finding was made that he presided over ZIFA’s financial systems between 2011 and 2015 when funds in the sum of $700 000 could not be accounted for.
“Moreover between the period of July 2015 and December 2015, the claimant exercised a dual role as (ZIFA) board and chief executive. “It is hypocrisy characterised by malice for (Mashingaidze) to allege that he is owed outstanding salaries (by ZIFA) and demand payment thereon in circumstances where he presided over the financial demise (of the association),” read the court papers.