Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa’s bid to seek re-election for the hottest football administrative seat in the country got off to a blistering start yesterday, with the association’s 10 provincial chairmen unanimously endorsing the Harare property moguls’ candidature ahead of next year’s elections.
The provincial chairmen, led by Mashonaland Central boss Gilbert Saika, yesterday said they would throw their weight behind Chiyangwa whom they believe has done an excellent job in the two years he has been at the helm of the soccer mother body. Chiyangwa was initially elected for two years to complete the remainder of the term after his predecessor Cuthbert Dube was pushed out of office midway through his four-year tenure.
After noticing the challenges bedevilling football, Chiyangwa believes he needs more time to bring sanity to the game and the COSAFA president has often indicated that he wants to leave legacy by the time he moves to possible higher offices in the game.
Although ZIFA elections are still some months away, the men running the game in the provinces felt they needed to make a bold statement on the direction which they want football to take beyond 2018 and want Chiyangwa in the driving seat.
Mashonaland Central’s Saika addressed a media conference yesterday flanked by his colleagues from nine other provinces who included Brian Austin Chishanga (Midlands), Nkosilathi Ncube (Matabeleland South), Kuziwa Nyabeze (Manicaland), David Mpuli (Mashonaland East), Nobioth Magwizi (Masvingo), Dennis Tshuma (Matabeleland North), Francis Ntuta (Bulawayo) and Derick Matapure (Mashonaland West). Harare Province — whose chairman Owen Chandamale died early this month — were represented by Toddy Goni.
The provincial chairmen requested the ZIFA board to convene, as a matter of urgency, an Emergency General Meeting to discuss what they termed the “ZIFA capture” report and the issues of financial impropriety that have been hogging the limelight in the past few weeks. Saika said they had done extensive consultations within their constituencies before making a decision to convene in Harare and give Chiyangwa a seal of approval.
“We are here as provincial chairmen to endorse the candidature of Dr Philip Chiyangwa for the elections in 2018 and we don’t expect any opposition to that. The second resolution we have made is that we are here to request the president to hold as soon as possible an EGM to discuss the ZIFA capture report.
“We want the president to bring sanity to our local football so that we can attract more sponsors. There were a lot of things which were happening in the past in terms of financials and we want an EGM so that we can discuss that,” said Saika.
Chiyangwa has been in office since December 5, 2015 when he resoundingly won the elections ahead of Trevor Carelse Juul, Leslie Gwindi and James Takavada. Initially, Chiyangwa when he assumed office had indicated that he would not go beyond the two years but has since reversed the decision.
Saika said the announcement by the chairmen that they would back Chiyangwa did not mean they were blocking prospective candidates from expressing their desire from participating in the association’s presidential elections.
“We as the provincial chairpersons observe the democracy of the country. When we say we don’t expect any opposition, this is an expectation from ourselves. It’s not to say we are shutting anybody out. It’s our democratic right to endorse Dr Chiyangwa. Anybody who also wants to contest should feel free,” said Saika.
“Yes we knew he said he would not stand for another election but now we think continuity is very important. The long and short of it is that circumstances do change. There are some projects that he started and it is our belief that he should not abandon the ship midway. It’s better for him to continue than to bring in another person and it will seem like we are starting again.
“So we strongly feel that for the sake of progress we think he should continue what he started so that we may reap the benefits. If somebody is coming after, say after another five years or so, it will have given him some ample time to finish what he started,” said Saika.
Firebrand Midlands chairman and the longest serving ZIFA councillor Chishanga also weighed in and asked the board to convene the EGM as a matter of urgency to discuss the emerging details of financial mismanagement raised by the 2011 audit report.
The chairmen claimed that the association was “captured” by a few individuals between 2010 and 2014 as crucial information was hidden from them until ZIFA was rendered dysfunctional. Chishanga said they needed the EGM to take place before they can hold the AGM.
The AGM, which is also expected to set the election road map, has since been postponed to next year after it failed to take place last weekend because of some technicalities. The chairmen said they have been awakened by reports of poor management and the huge amounts of money that went missing in the last few years.
“I have in my possession the audited reports of 2011 from Baker Tilly Gwatidzo. Quite honestly these audited statements were not presented to ZIFA council in this form that they are.
“We have just looked at this now and we can see that there is a lot that needs discussion, there is a lot of money that went missing at ZIFA and we want to talk about this at congress level.
“That is why we are calling for an EMG. This meeting should have only one agenda, that is, to set the record straight. There is a lot of money missing at ZIFA and a lot of other forms of mismanagement that took place in the past. So we have to set the record straight, it’s not chasing after individuals,” said Chishanga.
The provincial chairmen’s move should come as a huge dent to a cabal being fronted by former chief executive Jonathan Mashigaidze that has been calling for the unseating of the current ZIFA leadership.
Despite facing criminal charges over alleged $700 000 fraud and being slapped with a life ban by the ZIFA board, Mashingaidze was yesterday still forcing and fighting claiming it was the association, which instead was battling a constitutional crisis. Mashingaidze is claiming he is owed $80 000 in outstanding salaries by ZIFA and in a statement that he released, accused the board of being vindictive.
“The 2011 audit report never talked about fraud but poor accounting. The 2011 audit report was ratified by the ZIFA Council and sent to FIFA and SRC. The ZIFA Council that ratified the 2011 audit report is the same ZIFA Council in existence today and it could never have ratified a report where fraud was reported.
“This ZIFA Council is made up of men and women of honour and integrity. This ZIFA Council has professional accountants amongst its midst. And to prove its integrity on the 16th of December 2017 it refused to ratify 2016 ZIFA audited accounts before they had studied them.
“However, what is worrying is that Ms Merilyn Chifamba and Mr. Joseph Mamutse (current CEO) who were responsible for the production of the 2011 audited accounts were retained by ZIFA and were responsible for the production of the 2016 audited accounts.
“It is a shame or a pity that Mr. Joseph Mamutse is being used and falsely reporting to the police that funds were misused yet he knows the truth about the audit reports. Mr. Joseph Mamutse also knows the truth about the creditors which he used to work hand in hand with as the Former ZIFA Chief Operations Officer,” said Mashingaidze.
Mashingaidze also claimed the pending ZIFA elections had been put at risk after the association failed to hold their annual meeting last Saturday with the administrator insisting that he was prepared to continue fighting for what he believed is right.