BY HENRY MHARA
COSAFA’S duplicity in banning Zifa from attending the regional football governing body’s annual general meeting (AGM) set for today has been exposed, revealing its dishonesty and vindictiveness.
Investigations by NewsDay Sport have revealed that while Zifa is indebted to Cosafa, the two bodies reached an agreement on December 31, 2019 that Fifa would pay the Zimbabwe football mother body’s debt by the end of this month.
But Cosafa attempted to ban Zifa from attending the AGM when the mother body said it would move a motion to remove Philip Chiyangwa as the head of the regional football body alleging corruption and fraud.
A defiant Zifa delegation led by its president Felton Kamambo left the country yesterday afternoon for South Africa where they intend to gate-crash into the meeting.
The AGM, which gathers all 14 member associations from the region gets underway this morning at the Southern Sun OR Tambo Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Information gathered by this publication show that on December 18, 2019, Cosafa wrote to Zifa demanding a balance payment of US$18 250 from a US$25 000 loan that was advanced to them two years ago, failure of which Zimbabwe would be barred from attending today’s meeting.
“We refer to the debt of US$18 250 which has been owing to Cosafa since 2018 and has been reflected in regular statements of account sent to the association.
“Despite ongoing correspondence and phone calls from Cosafa to the association in an attempt to recover this amount and to ensure that the association is in good standing, the amount remains unpaid.
“We are, therefore, requested to demand, as we hereby do, payment of US$18 250 in full, by deadline 30th December 2019 failing which we shall have no alternative but to invoke Article 27.6 of the Cosafa statutes.”
Zifa responded to Cosafa, informing them that they had asked Fifa to settle the debt on their behalf since they were having problems in transferring the money from Zimbabwe due to local monetary laws.
“We are in receipt of your demand letter on a loan you extended to Zifa at the behest of the then Zifa president and Cosafa president Chiyangwa.
“While it is a fact that this is an inherited bill, the association remain committed to clear (sic) it at the most opportune time.
“Previous joint efforts to have the money from Zimbabwe failed to yield any joy after the local Reserve Bank refused to sanction the payment and such was communicated to your office.
“You will, however, note [that] we have through our Cosafa prize money paid off part of the US$25 000 loan hence the reason the bill now stands at US$18 250.
“This letter seeks to inform your office that we have now requested for Fifa to deduct from our grant pencilled for January 2020 the amount due to you of US$18 250 and pay the same directly to Cosafa so that this matter is settled. We hope this request will meet your favourable consideration.”
In the letter, Zifa said they were worried about Cosafa’s tone, which already inferred that they were plotting punitive measures, which includes membership suspension.
Zifa argued they previously owed Cosafa R800 000 but were never threatened with suspension as the money would be deducted from prize monies each time Zimbabwe qualified for such money.
“It is [a] common secret that we are not in good books with the current Cosafa president (Chiyangwa) and we begin to wonder if the suggested punitive measures and deadlines are really divorced from our issues with Chiyangwa.
“This is so, especially when one considers that the loan was taken when Chiyangwa was Zifa president but no undue pressure was exerted on his administration to repay before he left office.
“One wonders whether the threat to suspend, if we do not settle by 31 December 2019, is not linked to the upcoming Cosafa AGM, where Zifa has requested that the Cosafa president’s interferences with our football be included in the agenda. We sincerely hope this is not another of the Cosafa president’s attempts to take away our voice.”
On the same day, Zifa wrote to Fifa requesting them to deduct the money from a grant that the local association receives annually.
Fifa, through its senior development manager Africa and Caribbean Region Subdivision member associations Solomon Mudege on December 31, 2019 responded: “We have taken note of Zifa’s request for Fifa to pay US$18 250 to Cosafa. This funds transfer would be deducted from Zifa’s operational costs funding.
“In Cosafa’s letter to Zifa, a deadline of 30 December 2019 is indicated. However, I assume that both Zifa and Cosafa will wait for Fifa’s response before any further action is taken.”
On January 9, Fifa confirmed that they would pay Zifa’s debt.
The confirmation email was sent to both Zifa general secretary Joseph Mamutse and Cosafa secretary general, Sue Destombes.
“We have considered Zifa’s request and we can assist on an exceptional basis. Cosafa should send us an invoice for US$18 250,” Fifa wrote.
“The invoice should be addressed to Fifa (Attention: Solomon Mudege). The funds will be transferred to Cosafa by the end of January 2020.”
The following day, Destombes acknowledged receipt of the email.
“Thank you Solomon, this is much appreciated and our invoice will be sent to you on Monday 13th January for processing,” she responded.
Investigations show that Cosafa’s accounting consultant, Tanya Reed, of Bifinancial, on January 13, 2019, sent the invoice to Fifa, and the world football governing body acknowledged receipt on January 15, 2019.
“I would like to confirm that the invoice has been requested for payment. Cosafa should receive the funds by end of January,” wrote Mudege, and Destombes responded: “Many thanks indeed Solomon.”
Last week, Destombes wrote to Mamutse inviting Zifa to attend the AGM since there was an agreed plan to settle the debt.
“Cosafa will send the ticket for president Kamambo and arrange his accommodation which will be on our account.
“Kindly advise whether we should reserve accommodation for Mr Philemon Machana (Zifa vice-president) and yourself at the same hotel, which will be for Zifa account (sic). A copy of the AGM agenda and the financial statements will be sent,” read part of an email by Destombes.
The following day, Zifa received a copy of the agenda and the financial statements from Cosafa.
Curiously, Zifa only received this on the deadline day for them to make their proposals, submissions and questions for consideration and actioning during the meeting.
Zifa wrote back instantly, with Mamutse questioning a number of issues in the financials which he proposed to be included on the agenda. He queried the huge amounts of money that had been given to Chiyangwa as allowances last year, amounting to almost R1 million.
The allowances to Chiyangwa, and other Cosafa executive committee members, which amounted to over R1,5 million, were paid at a time the body made a R2 million loss.
Zifa also insisted that their proposal to have Chiyangwa dismissed as president of Cosafa be included as an issue for consideration on the agenda at the general assembly, “on the basis of the transgressions committed by him in destabilising the due administration of football in Zimbabwe”.
But on Monday morning, Cosafa sought to ban Zifa, on the pretext that they were not in good standing due to non-payment of the debt.
Destombes said she had been advised by the body’s emergency committee, but Zifa shot back saying such a committee does not exist in the Cosafa constitution.
Zifa wrote to Cosafa last Friday but were told on Monday this week that they could not attend the AGM, meaning that the so-called emergency committee had met on a weekend, also a highly irregular occurrence.
Relations between Zifa and Chiyangwa are at an all time low, with Kamambo accusing his predecessor of stalling the game’s progress in the country through continued interference and underhand dealings.
Zifa has also reported the flamboyant businessman to the police on several fraud and corruption allegations, including withdrawing US$30 000 from the association’s bank account months after he had ceased to be an official. He also allegedly used Zifa’s money to fund his lavish birthday party in 2017 which had Fifa president Gianni Infantino as a guest.