BY HENRY MHARA
ZIFA has said it will challenge its “unlawful” suspension by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and has already written to Fifa and Caf.
SRC on Tuesday dissolved the Zifa board on a cocktail of allegations, including abuse of public funds, incompetence, failure to adhere to COVID-19 protocols when sending national teams outside the country as well as failure to address the gender imbalances relating to the treatment of female national teams compared to their male counterparts.
The SRC decision will likely invite Fifa sanctions, which could mean a ban for Zimbabwe from participating in international tournaments.
Of immediate concern is the likelihood of the Warriors losing their place at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Cameroon, which begins in just over two months.
Fifa takes exception to government interference in football matters because it feels that member nations should be free to run their affairs.
Zifa yesterday said it had already written to Fifa and Caf, who it said had promised to respond next week.
The association’s lawyer Chenaimoyo Gumiro yesterday confirmed that Zifa had been served with the suspension letter, but told NewsDay Sport that the allegations were flimsy.
SRC alleges that it suspended the entire Zifa board for incompetence, but Gumiro said it did not have such powers. He also said his client was not given time to respond to the allegations.
“SRC does not have that mandate or authority to suspend Zifa based on incompetence. SRC is not the employer of Zifa executive committee, neither are the Zifa executive committee employees of SRC. The role of the SRC is clearly defined that it is a regulatory body and not the employer,” Gumiro said.
“SRC can only act within the confines of the law and, as such, if it intends to suspend the executive committee of an association, it can only do so in terms of section 30 of the SRC Act. The letter goes on to purport to suspend the Zifa executive committee in terms of that section of the SRC Act.
“But, however, due process was not followed in that Zifa was not accorded an opportunity to be heard and to present its side of the story. The decision to suspend can only be reached upon after according the other party an opportunity to be heard. In this case, this was not done, rendering the whole process unlawful. Even if we are to give credence to the letter, the basis alleged do not hold.”
The SRC is also alleging that Zifa mismanaged public funds relating to the Warriors’ participation at the 2019 Afcon finals in Egypt. SRC says Zifa did not respond to their letter when asked to explain how they used the money.
“Various legal issues arise, one to do with prescription and secondly the allegation that Zifa did not respond to the communication dated 3 July 2019,” Gumiro said.
“It is clear that Zifa did respond to that correspondence through a letter dated 14 August 2019 addressed to the SRC so this allegation is patently false as the response is there and can be ascertained through checking the records. If the respond is not the one that the SRC expected, then it should have said so, not to say that there was no response.”
On the failure to adhere to national COVID-19 prevention and containment protocols by sending national teams outside of the country without a clearance from the SRC, the lawyer said: “Again, this is a flimsy ground as there is consent in all games that were participated by Zifa emanating from the SRC. The consent would come in the form of oral consent, which would then be confirmed by written consent emanating from the SRC.
“It’s in the public domain that SRC had to suspend its director-general in relation to the issue of the issuance of these consents. It’s not an issue that falls within the purview of Zifa on how the consent was being issued, or how Zifa obtained the consent. What is pivotal to Zifa is that it had the consent of SRC.”
SRC in November last year put its director-general Prince Mupazviriho on suspension for “improperly” clearing national teams for foreign assignments.
The sports regulator is also accusing Zifa of failing to address the gender imbalances relating to the treatment of female national teams compared to their male counterparts in terms of allowances, upkeep and favourable operating conditions.
“This ground again does not hold either. What SRC is failing to address is the issue that it can only suspend an executive committee for failure or acting contrary to national interest and not on these flimsy basis which are administrative in nature and not policy issues. There has to be an allegation to say the allowances have to be pegged at this much for the women teams, but Zifa did not meet that condition,” Gumiro said.
“But in this case, we have an issue of a contractual relationship, where Zifa enters into a contract with particular participants and these participants sign agreements with Zifa and agree to the terms and conditions thereof. Further, it is for Zifa to determine these administrative issues based on the resources available.”
On failure to implement football development programmes at grassroots levels, Gumiro said: “This is baseless, regard being (given) to the period we are all operating in. That is the COVID-19 era where there was no meaningful football that was being played and it’s actually the SRC that communicated to Zifa to say that no football is to be played. And when Zifa adhered to that directive, it is now being suspended for adhering to the directive itself.”
He said Zifa had started the process of reviewing the constitution, which was halted by the SRC.
“There is a constitutional review committee that was established by Zifa. The process of reviewing the constitution was underway and it was only stopped by SRC itself on the basis of COVID-19 regulations, so Zifa adhered to the SRC directive to halt the process, but is now being suspended for complying with an SRC directive, so one then wonders what exactly is SRC saying,” Gumiro said.
“What the SRC has failed to do is to act within the confines of its own Act, which only allows it to intervene when there is a breach of national interest, but in this case, there is no mentioning of national interests that has been abrogated by the Zifa board.”
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