ZIFA president Phillip Chiyangwa is desperate to save his political and economic empire, as it emerges that he is one of the “criminals” being hunted down by the new political dispensation seeking to weed out all alleged corrupt elements that had surrounded former President Robert Mugabe.
BY HENRY MHARA
Following the arrest and detention of former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, who appeared in court on Saturday on corruption charges, Chiyangwa has been on a ferocious drive to try and distance himself from the people aligned to the deposed former Zanu PF leader.
If he is not live streaming on social media, painstakingly pleading his innocence and dissociation from Mugabe or the G40 faction that was backing the former President, he is issuing Press releases through his Zifa office, offering compliments to new President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In his latest bid to be acceptable to the new leadership and, in turn, avert possible prosecution, Chiyangwa announced yesterday that he was organising a friendly match between the Warriors and Chipolopolo of Zambia next month to celebrate Mnangagwa’s ascendancy.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association advises the nation that it has organised a celebratory international friendly match between the senior men’s teams of Zimbabwe and Zambia to mark the historic assumption of office by His Excellency, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The friendly match between the sister nations will be played on December 23, 2017 at the National Sports Stadium in Harare,” Chiyangwa announced in a desperate move to charm Mnangagwa.
“On the same day, Zimbabwe and South Africa’s football legends will provide pre-match entertainment as the curtain raisers. As the custodians of the nation’s most popular sport code, Zifa duly appreciates the sincere call by His Excellency for every citizen regardless of political orientation, tribe, gender, colour or creed to positively contribute towards the building of our nation.
“Sport in general and football in particular is a proven catalyst for unity, peace and social cohesion. We are confident that the new start that the nation has been granted in the hands of His Excellency Cde Mnangagwa will lead not only to the revival but flourishing success of sport.”
Chiyangwa, who is believed to own vast tracts of land in Harare and other cities, is allegedly named in a document prepared by Harare City Council chronicling corrupt land deals by individuals who are close to Mugabe.
It is the same document that is being used by the State as a basis to prosecute Chombo, who is facing three counts of corruption-related charges.
Chiyangwa, a Zanu PF central committee member, has previously posted, on regular basis, videos on social media showering praises on the former First Family, often describing them as inimitable and indispensable.
And as the succession war played out in Zanu PF, Chiyangwa would take to social media, where he, through his posts, openly aligned himself to the G40 faction which was apparently clearing the path for former First Lady Grace Mugabe to ascend to the presidency.
The flashy businessman would, in the videos and audios, often remind the suffering Zimbabweans that their only way out of their misery was through supporting the Mugabes.
“How can you expect to make money in Zimbabwe if you don’t support President Robert Mugabe. You can’t oppose Mugabe and Zanu PF and try to make money at the same time. Those that have attempted to do so (oppose Mugabe) know the consequences,” he remarked in one of his audio recordings.
In one of the videos which he took while travelling to Rushinga, where Grace was holding a campaign rally, Chiyangwa bragged about being part of “Team Grace”, a team that was backing her in a bid to be President.
He was also part of the crowd at Grace’s recent apostolic churches interface rally at Rufaro Stadium, a day before Mnangagwa was eventually sacked from the Vice-President’s post. The rally was attended by G40 loyalists.
But after the military intervention last week that led to the peaceful transfer of power from Mugabe to Mnangagwa, Chiyangwa has been scrambling to save his skin by dumping the Mugabes and the G40 grouping.
He has been trying desperately to realign himself with the new dispensation.
In his pleas, some almost comical, he distanced himself from politics.
And on the day after Chombo was detained, with reports emerging suggesting that Chiyangwa was the next to be arrested, he was quick to try and clear himself.
“Just to put it on record, I’m in my office here [along] 160 Enterprise Road and I slept in my house. I’m not being sought (because) in my life, I have never been a government minister. I have never been anything that makes decisions on anybody’s life. I have just been doing my own thing and people get very interested, very jealous. I’m just about making money and running my football,” he said in a video post.
“These falsehoods being peddled all over, putting my name alongside people who have been Cabinet ministers where I haven’t been. What was I doing with them? I will be travelling away for my football engagements, bringing football to Zimbabwe. That’s all I do.”
Despite his links with Mugabe, Chiyangwa was one of the first people to congratulate Mnangagwa after he was inaugurated as President.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president, Dr Phillip Chiyangwa, the executive committee, the secretariat and the council would like to congratulate His Excellency Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa on the occasion of his inauguration as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe on November 24.
“We, as the football family, are elated that the transition was smooth, peaceful and it allowed for the continuation of the beautiful game across Zimbabwe without any hindrance. For that, we are grateful. We pledge to work with you on your mantra ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ to transform not only football, but sport in general into an industry that employs millions across the country and that receives support from the corporate sector and indeed, your new government.”