Fifa bans Zim

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Gerald Mlotshwa (Centre) at a press conference
Gerald Mlotshwa (Centre) at a press conference

By HENRY MHARA

AFTER months of speculation over Fifa’s stance on the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC)’s suspension of the Zifa board in November last year, the world governing body, Fifa, yesterday banned Zimbabwe from all international football activities until the sport regulator reinstates the Felton Kamambo-led executive committee.

The Zifa board was dissolved by the SRC on November 16 last year over a litany of charges that include alleged misappropriation of funds as well as sweeping under the carpet sexual abuse and match-fixing charges.

On Thursday, Fifa general-secretary Fatma Samoura wrote to Zifa secretary-general Joseph Mamutse informing him of the suspension, which will only be lifted after the board is reinstated and regains full control of football activities in the country.

Fifa considered all the events that led to the drastic decision, where the SRC first sought permission to establish a normalisation committee in 2019, which was turned down by the world governing body.

The letter by Fifa also refers to Mamutse’s suspension in November 2020, which again the world football mother body was not in support of.

Fifa noted in its letter that following the suspension of the Zifa board, it tried to find solutions that would not hurt the game, but SRC chairperson Gerald Mlotshwa declined to participate in a crucial meeting that would have involved Zifa and Fifa.

The prevention of Kamambo from travelling to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2021 finals in Cameroon last month also irked Fifa and after considering that and other circumstances, the Zurich-headquartered organisation decided to ban Zimbabwe.

Kamambo was barred from travelling to Cameroon, where he had been invited to watch the final match between Senegal and Egypt.

“The Fifa Council considered that the aforementioned circumstances were serious and constituted a clear case of undue interference by a third party. Therefore, on the basis of article 14 paragraphs 1 i) and 3 of the Fifa Statutes — as well as article 16 paragraph 1, under which the Fifa Council may, without a vote of the congress, temporarily suspend with immediate effect a member association that seriously violates its obligations — the Fifa Council decided to suspend Zifa with immediate effect due to flagrant violations of the Fifa Statutes,” Samoura wrote to Mamutse.

“Furthermore, and without prejudice to the ongoing investigations into the allegations of sexual harassment and bribery, the Fifa Council decided that the lifting of the suspension be subject to the following conditions:

  • The repeal of the SRC decision of November 26, 2020 suspending the Zifa general-secretary
  • The repeal of the SRC decision of November 16, 2021 suspending the Zifa board
  • The repeal of the SRC decision of December 17, 2021 setting up the restructuring committee
  • fifa’s receipt of confirmation from Zifa and its management, led by president Felton Kamambo and general-secretary Joseph Mamutse, that Zifa and its premises are once more under their full and unconditional control
  • The withdrawal of the SRC’s legal complaint against the Zifa president, three other Zifa board members and the general-secretary regarding alleged misuse of the Zifa letterheads

“Consequently, and in accordance with article 13 of the Fifa Statutes, Zifa loses all its membership rights as of February 24, 2022 until further notice. Zifa representative and club teams are, therefore, no longer entitled to take part in international competitions until the suspension is lifted. This also means that neither the Zifa nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any development programmes, courses or training from Fifa and/or Caf.

“Finally, notwithstanding this suspension imposed on Zifa and in line with Fifa zero-tolerance policy towards corruption, sexual abuse and any other unethical conduct, Fifa reiterates its commitment to cooperating with any ongoing investigations regarding alleged sexual harassment and bribery by Zifa officials. Fifa will, therefore, remain at the disposal of the national authorities and plaintiffs with respect to the above during the suspension period.”

With the ban, Zimbabwe cannot participate in any Fifa-sanctioned football activities and will lose its rights to grants.

This means that the Warriors will not be part of the draw for the Afcon 2023 qualifiers, among other losses.

The qualifiers are set to start in May.

  • Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara