Is Politics Behind Chaos at ZIFA?

By Sij Ncube

Harare, June 18,2015 – Chaos is reigning supreme within the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA), the country’s soccer controlling body, amid indications it is just a matter of time before the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) dissolved the embattled Cuthbert Dube executive, risking the country’s isolation from international football.

But football experts suspect a hidden political hand behind the shenanigans at ZIFA.

Dube has been under-fire from critics since his controversial re-election in March last year who accuse him and his side-kick, Jonathan Mashikaidze, the ZIFA chief executive officer, of presiding over the dearth of local football.

There have been accusations of dilatory supervision of the local game and alleged bad governance at ZIFA House in Livingstone Avenue, charges Dube and Mashingaidze vehemently deny.

Critics calling for Dube’s head point at the always chaotic preparations of the country’s national teams ahead of crucial matches.

Just last week Warriors coach Calisto Pasuwa and national senior team players missed their flight to Lilongwe in protest over outstanding allowances.

Self-appointed prophet Walter Magaya later chipped in, hiring a bus and paying the players $200 each from his pocket.

This week the fixture against Comoros was in limbo as Pasuwa and his charges were reportedly reluctant to full-fill the fixture again due to outstanding allowances.

On their part, Dube and his executive, who are saddled with crippling debts, argue ZIFA is technically insolvent and blame some of the mounting debts to previous executives. Previously Dube has used his personal funds to bankrolling the national teams.  

Be that as it may, the internecine fight for the control has created two distinct factions in support of or against Dube and his side-kicks.

Last month some ZIFA councillors allegedly led by his deputy Omega Sibanda passed a resolution to suspend the businessman and two other councillors thought to be in his pocket but move back-fired.

In a typical retributive and pre-emptive move, Dube has proceeding to suspend the 16 councillors, including his vice Sibanda, sparking further chaos at ZIFA.   Sibanda and his faction have described their suspension as a nullity.

Apart from Bulawayo-based Sibanda, other Zifa officials suspended during a board meeting on Monday include board member finance Bernard Gwarada, regional chairpersons Musa Mandaza, Piraishe Mabhena (Eastern), Felton Kamambo (Central) and Willard Manyengavana (Northern).

Also suspended were Northern Region secretary Sweeney Mushonga and Matabeleland North provincial chairman Denis Tshuma.

The discord at ZIFA has attracted the attention of the Zanu PF administration with some influential ministers allegedly nudging the SRC to fire Dube despite likely FIFA threats of suspending the country from international football citing political interference.

The state media has been in the fore-fronting of wanting Dube’s executive shown the door like yesterday.

But a Sports Editor with an independent local daily newspaper, speaking strictly is not named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the bigger problem is that ZIFA, from independence from Britain in 1980, has always been a Zanu(PF) front.

“But the same Zanu people have not been able to finance its operations,” he said.

Past leaders from Leo Mugabe, Vincent Pamire, Rafik Khan and Wellington Nyatanga are known Zanu (PF) functionaries or sympathisers.

Sibanda, Dube’s suspended deputy, is accused of is using Zanu to try and oust Dube. He, however, was not immediately available for comment.

But Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for MDC Renewal who has a passion for local football, said the state needs to set aside a budget for football every year instead of sponsoring factionalism in soccer as it is the case at ZIFA.

“The minister of sports (Andrew Langa) seems to have forgotten soccer is a sport which needs funding not politics,” said Mafume.

David Coltart, a former Sports minister during the government of national (GNU) told Radio VOP it would not be surprising if the SRC dissolved Dube’s executive, pointing out the statutory body has the power to do so under the country’s statutes.

“The SRC has the power under the SRC Act to suspend any sports association, so it is clear that it has the domestic legal authority to do so,” said Coltart, adding that the consequences are not domestic but international.

“In the past FIFA have suspended countries from international football when government have “interfered” with national football bodies and so ZIFA, or whatever replaces it could be suspended from FIFA and as a result Zimbabwe suspended from all international matches. But given the turmoil within FIFA at present though, it remains to be seen whether they would act in this way now.”

Coltart added that whatever the case government needs to provide FIFA with compelling evidence why ZIFA should be suspended and in that regard would have to go on a major publicity drive.