Zifa witness’ shadowy past


Sports Reporter
THE man ZIFA say is their “chief witness”, the whistleblower providing the information which the association claim provides the basis for their latest crackdown against match-fixing, has a shadowy past.

He was arrested in Harare in 2011 accused of allegedly defrauding former Warriors’ captain Benjani Mwaruwari.

Leeroy Waguta, who is now based in South Africa, flew into Harare yesterday and met with ZIFA officials, including the association’s legal guru Itayi Ndudzo, as part of the investigations into the latest match-fixing scandal to hit Zimbabwean football.

ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa told a media conference in Harare yesterday that their “chief witness” had provided loads of information which had helped the association to bust what they claim to be a sophisticated match-fixing ring, with tentacles in South Africa, which has allegedly been manipulating matches on both sides of the Limpopo.

Chiyangwa did not name the whistleblower, whom he said was now housed at a safe house, but the ZIFA president said he had supplied them with a lot of ammunition which had helped the association to suspend one of their board members, Edzai Kasinauyo, and axed Warriors assistant coach Nation Dube.

The Harare property mogul said former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya was also heavily implicated in the scandal.

The cartel, said Chiyangwa, has been manipulating matches largely in South Africa and were about to strike in Zimbabwe, with the domestic Premiership and the 2017 Nations Cup qualifier between Zimbabwe and Swaziland on Easter weekend targeted for manipulation.

Chiyangwa said they had been supplied with emails and other implicating material to convince them that they had enough arsenal to nail the match-fixing gang, which he says was under the leadership of the brother of serial match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, who is also based in South Africa.

The Herald, though, can reveal that the whistleblower, described by Chiyangwa as our “chief witness”, at yesterday’s media conference, has a very colourful past.

Five years ago, Waguta was arrested in Harare on allegations of swindling the then Warriors’ skipper, Benjani, who was playing for English side Blackburn Rovers.

Waguta was described in court as Benjani’s property manager, who oversaw the football star’s property portfolio in South Africa and Zimbabwe, but their relationship soured when the former Warriors’ captain filed a report with the police in Harare claiming that his partner had defrauded him.

Waguta was alleged to have swindled R100 000 and $5 000 from Benjani’s coffers in Harare and South Africa through an alleged act of misrepresentation.

It was alleged that in November 2010, Waguta approached Benjani’s friend, former Warriors’ team manager Patrick Mutesva, and allegedly misrepresented to him that the then Warriors’ skipper, who was away in England, had asked him to collect $5 000.

Prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema alleged Waguta approached Mutesva and misrepresented that he was supposed to be given money.

It was the State’s case that Waguta knew Mutesva owed Benjani some money.

The State alleged that, in the process, Waguta allegedly lied to Mutesva that he had been sent by Mwaruwari to collect the $5 000 from him.

Through the misrepresentation, it is alleged, the unsuspecting Mutesva gave Waguta the money, which he converted to his personal use.

During the same month, it was alleged that Waguta, who was in Harare, sent an e-mail to Benjani’s lawyer in South Africa pretending to be the football star and instructed the lawyer to transfer R100 000 from his account into Waguta’s account.

It was further alleged that the lawyer transferred the money into Waguta’s account without any suspicion. The matter came to light when the legal representative was auditing the funds and verified with Benjani about the transfer.

Benjani then filed a police report that led to Waguta’s arrest.

Waguta was first remanded out of custody but Harare magistrate Shane Kubonera revoked his bail after Benjani testified and convinced the court that the suspect had been threatening him.

“After inquiries from both the defence and State counsel, the issue of interference when bail conditions were imposed is that when one is granted bail, he is supposed to follow the court order,” said Kubonera as he sent Waguta to remand prison.

“The accused was not supposed to interfere and threaten the complainant.”

Waguta’s lawyers claimed Benjani allegedly cooked up the story that he was threatened to counter claims from their client that the footballer owed him $28 000 in unpaid fees for his role as his property manager.

However, the magistrate threw out that submission. Benjani, in his court testimony, said he had first met Waguta 11 years earlier.

“I first met this young man when I was playing for the Warriors at the National Sports Stadium,” said Benjani. “Harlington Shereni introduced him to me as his young brother more than 11 years ago.

“Our relationship grew stronger before he fled to South Africa because he owed my friend. Between the two, I then acted as an intermediary.

“At that time he was staying with my young brother at my house where he then called one of my friends and stole money that was supposed to be paid to caretakers.

“I made a report for theft which prompted his arrest and Waguta called me with a private number while I was in Nigeria threatening to go to the press to divulge information about my private life.

“I later read in the papers that he was claiming I owed him $500 000 and threatened to tarnish me that way.

“I am a respected person and exaggerated bad publicity would damage my image.” A few months later Waguta was removed from remand after Benjani failed to come to court, from his base in England, to give evidence in the fraud case. The magistrate ruled that the State could proceed with the case by way of summons.

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