Referees under spotlight at ZIFA board meeting

Grace Chingoma-Senior Sports Reporter

THE domestic football referees’ constituency will come under spotlight when the ZIFA board convenes today to discuss a host of football matters including the on-going re-engagements with FIFA.

It is the first time that acting president Gift Banda and his colleagues Sugar Chagonda, Farai Jere and Barbara Chikosi are meeting as the ZIFA board following the lifting of the suspension of the association’s football leadership on June 8.

The referees’ portfolio, which falls under the ZIFA Referees Committee, has been under fire for a number of questionable decisions such as appointing inexperienced match officials to preside over big matches.

Investigations on the ground also appear to suggest that some referees were fast tracked to the ZIFA panel within two years of acquiring class three licence, causing a lot of discomfort within the refereeing corridors.

Before the suspension of the ZIFA board and the eventual recalling of his mandate, Bryton Malandule chaired the Referees Committee, which is now under Brighton Mudzamiri.

And some changes are likely to be effected in that portfolio when the board convenes their first board meeting today in Harare.

Banda told The Herald yesterday that it is going to be a long meeting where several issues are up for discussion.

 “There are many issues that we will be dealing with. It is going to be a long meeting covering vast issues.

“We will deliberate on the referees’ association and issues, since there have been a lot of complaints against the referees, some of which have been blamed for contributing to the hooliganism in our football.

“We also have appraisals to do to FIFA, CAF and COSAFA leadership,” said Banda.

The veteran administrator, who has been tasked by the Congress to lead the truncated board during the suspension of president Felton Kamambo, Philemon Machana and Bryton Malandule, said part of the agenda has been derived from the Congress.

“There are certain issues that we were mandated to deal with by the Congress like the election road map among other things. All that will be discussed in this meeting,” said Banda.

The board will also deliberate on the ZIFA chief executive officer’s post.

Incumbent Joseph Mamutse has literally been absent without leave for a month, having opted to ignore the lifting of his suspension by the Sports Commission.

He instead reportedly chose to align himself with the trio of Kamambo, Machana and Malandule, who were recalled by the ZIFA Congress at an extraordinary general meeting on April 23.

So the meeting will go on without the head of secretariat — Mamutse — who has been conspicuous by his absence from the ZIFA headquarters at 53 Livingstone Avenue in Harare, despite being cleared to resume his duties.

Without pre-empting the indaba, Banda said the issue of Mamutse will be discussed. It is likely that a solution would be found, paving the way for the vacancy to be filled.

Banda has already outlined in his roadmap which gives the secretariat leeway in the administration of the game, unlike previously under Kamambo and Machana, when the board appeared to have usurped control of everything.

And for that move to be implemented, ZIFA need to have a stronger secretariat led by a CEO, who has the mandate to communicate with international bodies like FIFA, CAF and COSAFA and also sits on the board as an ex-officio member.

Former communications and competitions manager, Xolisani Gwesela, who has since been elevated to the position of chief operations officer, has also been acting as the CEO at ZIFA.

Mamutse early this month turned down the lifting of his suspension by the Sports and Recreation Commission in an apparent move to demonstrate his loyalties towards the recalled board members.

The ZIFA chief executive officer was suspended by the Sports Commission in November 2020, a year before the axe fell on the association’s board over a litany of allegations.

He was suspended along with the SRC director-general Prince Mupazviriho over a series of gaffes that negatively impacted on the game.

The duo’s suspension was effected to pave way for a probe into how they allegedly cleared a number of national teams, clandestinely for assignments outside the country, without following Covid-19 protocols, at the height of the pandemic. 

Mamutse also faced charges relating to the manner in which Zimbabwe was left embarrassed after the national Under-17 were kicked out of the COSAFA tournament for age-cheating.

He unsuccessfully challenged his suspension at the Administrative Court with his case being struck off the roll last month with costs.

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