Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA lawyer, Chenaimoyo Gumiro, has come out in defence of the association’s bosses who are in Cairo, for the CAF Extraordinary General Assembly, despite the dissolution of their board, by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).
Felton Kamambo and Philemon Machana, the two principal figures on the dissolved ZIFA board, and suspended chief executive, Joseph Mamutse, flew out of the country on Tuesday, for the indaba in the Egyptian capital.
Mamutse was suspended by SRC last year, in the wake of the Young Warriors disqualification from the COSAFA Under-17 Championships, for the use of an over-aged player.
The sports regulator also suspended their chief executive, Prince Mupazviriho, amid investigations over how national teams were being cleared, for foreign tours, without satisfying the Covid-19 protocols.
While there has been defiance by the suspended ZIFA board, their counterparts at the Kenya Football Federation, whose leadership was dissolved by the Government in that country, are not attending the CAF EGA.
It was not clear last night, which country Kamambo, Machana and Mamutse will be representing in Cairo as the SRC said they have no mandate to be acting on behalf of ZIFA, and Zimbabwe.
ZIFA lawyer, Gumiro, who has been battling in the corner of his clients, said the trio were invited to attend the indaba. However, the CAF invitations came before the SRC cracked the whip, and dissolved the ZIFA board, last week.
“The ZIFA leadership is in Cairo because they got invitations from CAF,’’ said Gumiro.
“Please note that CAF invites whoever they want at their events.
“If you get invited and you want to attend, nothing can stop you.
“And, as far as this issue back home is concerned, the suspension of the executive committee by the SRC, is a localised thing.
“I am not sure if it is recognised by CAF and FIFA.
“In fact, I don’t even know how far-reaching the powers of the SRC are, at the moment.
“If they have the powers to stop the suspended leaders from attending an event, where they invited by CAF, then they may need to approach CAF and say these guys are not supposed to be here, because of ABC.’’
The presence of Mamutse, in Cairo, has also raised a lot of questions, on the local football scene.
The ZIFA chief executive was suspended by the SRC to pave way for an inquiry into how national teams were being cleared for international assignments, in violation of the national Covid-19 regulations, last year.
The SRC also said Mamutse had a lot of questions to answer over the expulsion of the Young Warriors, from the Under-17 COSAFA tournament in South Africa, on age-cheating allegations.
ZIFA appealed against the suspension and also approached the Administrative Court to challenge Mamutse’s suspension.
“The issue of Mamutse was thrashed out with the SRC long back,’’ said Gumiro. ‘’We noted an appeal against the decision, of which we are entitled to, at law.
‘’What then this means is that after noting an appeal, the decision being appealed against is automatically set aside, until a final determination is made.
“Under the Labour Laws, there is nothing that should stop Mamutse from conducting operations.
“We even wrote to the SRC when the appeal was made and they are aware of it.
“The Labour Law is quite clear on this matter but the SRC Act is silent, so we go with the Labour Law.’’
The suspended ZIFA board have written to FIFA, and CAF, challenging their suspension.
The suspended leadership face a number of charges, among them alleged financial mismanagement and lack of accountability, and failure to address allegations related to the treatment of women national teams.
Gumiro yesterday dismissed the charges levelled against his clients.
“ZIFA have informed FIFA of what has transpired. We have explained to them the suspension of the executive committee, and the reasons given by the SRC for the suspension,’’ he said.
“My clients were served with the suspension letters which bar them from interfering with the day-to-day running of football at ZIFA office.
“We are now waiting to hear from the superiors.
“It’s up to the SRC, as the suspending authority, to say who is responsible for the running of the game, who gives policy direction to the secretariat, and so on.
“They have to give further details on charges of financial irregularities because, in as far as we are concerned, we have submitted to SRC and FIFA our audited accounts, every year.
“This letter of suspension from SRC is even confusing.
“According to the labour rules, you suspend someone pending a hearing, or an action to be taken, but their letter doesn’t say so.
“Instead it goes on to say the Minister (of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation) will appoint a committee to run the affairs of the association and organise elections, which means this ceases to be a suspension, but a dismissal.
“But, then, when you look at the SRC Act, do they have the power dismiss elected officials? No, they can only suspend.’’
The ZIFA lawyer also denied that his clients influenced referees to withdraw their services last week, leading to the abandonment of the midweek Premiership matches.
The PSL clubs have demanded compensation from ZIFA.
“What happened last week was that the suspension of the board members created a leadership vacuum at ZIFA,’’ said Gumiro.
“By 11 am, the board had already been suspended and had ceased operating.
“So, those guys had no one to report to at that particular moment, and that created the chaotic situation.
“It’s unfair to try and say the ZIFA board members influenced the unfortunate events because these guys had already left office.’’
The agenda of the CAF indaba include the Annual Revised Budget 2021-2022, Africa Football Infrastructure Development Programme, the Pan-African Super League and the FIFA International Match Calendar for Men and Women, including FIFA Men’s and Women’s World Cups.
This will be followed by a press conference to be addressed by CAF president Patrice Motsepe.