By Desmond Chingarande
Zifa bosses Felton Kamambo and Philemon Machana were yesterday both freed on bail by a Harare magistrate following their arrest for fraud at the weekend.
The State initially opposed bail on Kamambo and Machana but conceded on board members Bryton Malandule and Stanley Chapeta as well as general-secretary Joseph Mamutse.
They are all accused of illegally conducting Zifa business while they were suspended by the Sports and Recreation Commission.
Kamambo and Machana’s lawyer accused the State of abusing the justice system to try and wrest power from an elected board.
Admire Rubaya representing the quintet of Kamambo, Machana, Chapeta, Mamutse and Malandule raised issues with the conduct of the SRC.
The State is accusing the five of misrepresenting that they were still at the helm of football administration.
Investigating officer Dumezeli Mahlangu, while leading evidence for the State argued that the main reason for denying bail to Kamambo, Machana and Chapeta was that they could abscond court and also commit other offences related to football.
“Since the State granted bail to Mamutse and Malandule, we treat them all the same since they have committed the same offence. They can continue committing the same offences of similar nature. The accused person are executive members of Zifa and are on suspension so they are not supposed to do anything to do with Zifa. They are still purporting to represent Zifa,” Mahlangu said.
While under cross-examination from Rubaya, Mahlangu failed to explain to the court what offence the accused persons committed.
Mahlangu was asked to read the charge sheet and point where there were misrepresentations, but he failed.
Rubaya said Mamutse was the one who signed the letters to suspend the Zifa councillors and questioned why the whole board was arrested.
The investigating officer was also taken to task for writing on the charge sheet that investigations of the matter were completed a day after their arrest, to which he apologised saying it was a typing error.
“There are no compelling reasons why the accused person can be denied bail.
“If Mamutse is granted bail, why are the other accused persons being denied bail?” Rubaya questioned.
“These are elected officials, why are they being said to be misrepresenting? These charges are nothing but abuse of criminal justice and engaging a lawfare to take power from the legally elected accused persons. It’s unfortunate, SRC do not know its role. Zifa is an affiliate of Fifa and SRC has no role in Zifa. Fifa has been at pains to explain to SRC that what they are doing is wrong. The Fifa acknowledges that Kamambo is the real leader of football in Zimbabwe and why should they be arrested?
“This is a clear abuse of power by those who think they are close to political leaders of this country. At the end of it, the accused persons have the authority to do what they did,” Rubaya submitted.
Magistrate Stanford Mambanjegranted the trio $100 000 bail each saying there were no compelling reasons to deny them bail.
As part of their bail conditions, they were ordered to report once a week, to surrender travel documents, not to interfere with witnesses, not to visit Zifa offices and not to deal with any Zifa officials.
Mambanje remanded them to March 31 pending finalisation of the investigations.
The complainant was the Sports and Recreation Commission [SRC] and was being represented by Sebastian Garikai in his capacity as the acting director-general of the SRC.
Allegations are that on November 16 last year, the SRC suspended the entire Zifa executive committee for gross incompetence and misappropriation of the association’s funds.
It is alleged that after the suspension and during the period between January and 02 February 2022, the accused persons acting in connivance wrote various letters on a Zifa letterhead purporting to be Zifa executive committee members.
The State alleges that the letters signed by Mamutse, who also purported to be the chief executive officer of Zifa, were addressed to various members of the Zifa congress suspending them from their positions.
It is alleged as a result of the suspensions by the accused persons, the Zifa congressmen were incapacitated and unable to execute their tasks at Zifa. The State alleges their actions have also affected football clubs in Zimbabwe, particularly the Premier Soccer League and football in general in terms of sponsorship.
The State alleges the actions of the accused persons caused prejudice to the good administration of Zifa.
- Follow Desmond on Twitter @DChingarande1