I am not a big soccer fan but, like every Zimbabwean, I am shocked, angry and saddened by what has come to be the country’s biggest scandal of all time – bigger by far than the momentous Willowgate, on account of the effect it has had on millions of my countrymen – the infamous Asiagate.
Report by Tangai Chipangura
That a group of individuals, driven by nothing more than opportunistic greed, decided to abuse the national flag, at the expense of the entire country, in order to line their own pockets, is unforgivable.
Last Friday night, the national soccer body, Zifa, opened the beginning of the monumental football exposé and when the story and names were published the following morning, the newspapers sold out.
That is the extent of the effect that the Asiagate scandal had on the people of this country.
Cuthbert Dube, the Zifa boss, has so far announced the names of 15 individuals found guilty of match-fixing by a credible team of investigators led by Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Ahmed Ebrahim. The 15 individuals included eight football officials, five players and two journalists.
Nothing has rallied Zimbabweans in so much collective anger as this scandal has done.
The Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, called for the arrest and prosecution of the offending individuals.
He described the Asiagate scandal as “the most shameful chapter of Zimbabwe’s sporting history” and said the police and the Attorney-General should move with speed to arrest and prosecute identified individuals. If the custodians of the law did not do so, he said: “. . . their offices will also be tainted by this scandal”.
The ordinary Zimbabwean in the townships was also seething over the weekend – calling for the blood of “these criminals that have taken all of us for fools”, as Shepherd Muza of Chitungwiza put it.
A lot of people said the people named in the Asiagate scandal were enemies of the people and were in danger of mob justice. “They are safer in prison than they are on the streets,” said an angry soccer fan.
But what must have also shocked many people is the stance taken by our law-enforcing agents – the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Andrew Phiri, the police spokesperson, said police would only act when the law had been contravened and a complaint made!
“We normally are not deployed by what appears in the newspapers,” Phiri said.
So, even with Zifa publicly pointing at alleged culprits, our police seek to convince Zimbabweans with such a lame excuse that they will take no action because no one has yet filed a complaint. According to the ZRP logic therefore, a murdered child without a family or friends is not a police matter!
What a weird legal system we have. The police needs a complaint to investigate criminal activities reported by credible institutions.
In other words, our police have decided to do the “three wise monkeys” – “See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”! But really, this proverb is not supposed to apply to any self-respecting police force. It makes one wonder what criminal activity really gets our police motivated.
The more reason why police should take action is the fact that some of the alleged culprits are denying they were ever involved. What better chance to clear their names than defend themselves in an open court? They should be arrested and brought before the courts of law where details of their involvement can be heard in public.
While players may to some extend deserve leniency, architects of this crime and those that knowingly colluded must be jailed. This would also serve as protective custody because their safety cannot be guaranteed if they walked free on the streets.
The mastermind of Asiagate, a Singaporean criminal by the name of Wilson Raj Perumal, is doing time in jail. This man was described by Fifa’s head of security, Chris Eaton, as the world’s most prolific criminal fixer of soccer matches.
Asiagate’s shameless officials reportedly at one time allowed impostors to pose as the Zimbabwean Warriors and play a friendly match with the Malaysian national team. Needless to say, they were walloped – dragging the national flag into the mud. And our police see no criminal activity in this?
This kind of thing takes all of the enjoyment out of football. Players were made to (or chose to) sell their soul and the soul of the nation. Players that are found responsible for this action could as well be moonlighting as male prostitutes. It’s not like they have any pride after all and therefore deserve to be removed from football!
As for the officials, theirs were the most disgusting actions in the history of Zimbabwean sport and deserve long prison sentences — or worse.