Kamambo and crew off side Felton Kamambo

Eddie Chikamhi

Senior Sports Reporter

THE lawyers representing ousted ZIFA board members led by Felton Kamambo have misdirected themselves with their ill-advised threats to sue the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry over comments she made during a question and answer segment in Parliament recently, legal experts have said.

Kamambo and two other ex-ZIFA board members Philemon Machana and Bryton Malandule, are up in arms with the Minister who they accuse of misrepresenting facts when told Parliament that ZIFA received US$2million for the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt, which remains unaccounted for.

The Minister also updated legislators on the allegations of sexual harassment against referees that were raised against the ousted football administrators.

ZIFA never bothered to investigate the allegations, which resulted in a lengthy ban and a hefty fine being imposed on former ZIFA referees’ secretary Obert Zhoya by FIFA last year after the world football governing body conducted their own investigations.

But Kamambo and members of his executive have refuted receiving the money from Government and also distanced themselves from the allegations of sexual abuse.

And this week, Kamambo, through his excitable legal team of Admire Rubaya and Everson Chatambudza, served the Minister with a letter of demand asking her to retract her statements and offer a public apology.

The suspended board members gave her five days, which lapse tomorrow, with threats of raising a defamation case against the Minister. The lawyers are also acting under the instruction of former ZIFA Central Region chairman Stanley Chapeta and AWOL ZIFA chief executive officer Joseph Mamutse.

But it seems they deliberately ignored the fact that parliamentarians or any person who is called to testify in Parliament is protected from prosecution by the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act.

The Act seeks to promote freedom of speech and debate, hence Parliamentarians in that case also enjoy qualified privilege, which permits a person in a position of authority or trust to make statements or relay or report statements that would be considered slander and libel if made by anyone else.

A section of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act says:

“5 (1) There shall be freedom of speech and debate or proceedings in or before Parliament and any committee and such freedom shall not be liable to be impeached or questioned in any court or place outside Parliament.

“(2) Subsection (1) shall, subject to section thirteen, not apply to a person, other than a member, who gives evidence in or before Parliament or a committee.

“(3) It is declared for the avoidance of doubt that a member shall not be liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrest or imprisonment or damages for anything said in, produced before or submitted to Parliament or any of its committees.”

Commentators yesterday said Kamambo and his lawyers had no grounds to “bully” and “harass” the Minister into retracting her statements, let alone apologise, based on the Act.

Coventry’s comments were made on the background that about US$2million raised by the AFCON 2019 Fundraising Committee has remained unaccounted for, four years on.

The fund-raising committee was set-up in partnership between the Government, ZIFA and the corporate world.

Government, through the office of the President, poured in a significant amount and the funds in question totalled US$206 500 and $2 671 678 in local currency, which was quite substantial then.

In giving testimony in Parliament, Coventry said: “For clarity, the reasons that the SRC stepped in and suspended the (ZIFA) board were three main reasons. The first was that the Government had given ZIFA about US$2m that has never been accounted for.

“It wasn’t FIFA money but Zimbabwean money that parliamentarians should want to know where it has gone because it was never accounted for.

“Secondly, the (sexual harassment of) female referees. Four women have come forward; they have given their statement to the police and there have been investigations. Three of those (accused) members were on the ZIFA board. One of the officials (former ZIFA referees committee secretary Obert Zhoya) has already received a lifetime (five-year) ban from FIFA, from their own investigations, with a 20 000 Swiss francs fine.

“So FIFA are now investigating the second member that was on the board that was sexually abusing and harassing these women.

“FIFA knew that this was happening in 2018-19 when these women filed an appeal with FIFA and got no response. They then came to the Government. The SRC and Government, my office, worked together with these women to ensure that police reports were done and statements were made.

“We then went back to FIFA and CAF. We requested for them to step in. They refused. We then stepped in and suspended the executive for the things that I have just shared with the Members of Parliament.

This statement infuriated the ousted ZIFA board members and they instructed their lawyers to file for defamation. The lawsuit, however, is set to hit a brick wall.

“In light of the above, our strict instructions are to demand, as we hereby do the publication of full, unconditional, and unreserved withdrawal of those defamatory statements and related imputations together with an expression of regret on the same platform within five days of receiving this letter.

“… In the event that you fail to retract the defamatory statements as demanded, our clients shall proceed to issue summons and claim damages for defamation without any further notice to you,” wrote Rubaya and Chatambudza.

The legal commentators said the lawyers representing Kamambo were misdirected. They said the only remedy available was to approach Parliament and request their side to be heard or to prove that the statements were indeed meant to be malicious, which is a difficult undertaking.

You Might Also Like