BY SPORTS REPORTER THE ongoing Zifa boardroom wrangle has sucked in top government officials with revelations that a Cabinet minister could have helped himself to over US$1 million meant for bonuses and allowances for Warriors players during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals held in Egypt.
The chaotic campaign for the Warriors was characterised by player boycotts over bonuses and allowances. At one point, the players threatened to boycott their opening game against hosts.
It has emerged that over a million dollars that was fundraised by President Emmerson Mnangagwa towards the players’ welfare in Cairo, could have been looted.
A damning letter to Sports minister Kirsty Coventry by legislator Omega Sibanda, which has been leaked to NewsDay Sport, shows that at least US$1,2 million of the US$1,5m raised, could not be accounted for.
This comes after the country’s sports regulator, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) suspended the Zifa executive committee led by Felton Kamambo over allegations of misappropriation of public funds and sweeping under the carpet and sexual harassment of female referees.
They are also accused of refusing to account for the funds that the association received towards the 2019 Afcon finals. Kamambo, who has had his mandate and that of two others revoked over the issue, refutes the allegations.
SRC suspended Kamambo in November last year, but five months later, there haven’t been any arrests or convictions despite the seriousness of the charges.
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Sibanda, who served twice as Zifa vice-president, told Coventry that the allegations that were raised against Kamambo’s board were frivolous.
The letter was written on April 19, four days before Saturday’s emergency general meeting (EGM) which booted out Kamambo.
“The only public funds that remain not acquitted are those fundraised with the help of HE (His Excellency) President Mnangagwa in 2019 for the Egypt Afcon. Over US$1 500 000 was raised from that and only US$216 000 according to the Zifa Afcon acquittal (see annexure M, N, O of the Zifa untold story document for proof of this acquittal even that was given to the SRC at the time by Zifa) was paid by the committee directly to players and not through Zifa accounts,” Sibanda wrote.
“This is where, in my view, where you should ask the SRC or the (fundraising) committee where the rest of the money, more than US$1,3 million went. It is of public importance that such information be shared because that remains the only outstanding unacquitted public funds channelled to football (by the government) but such was not under Zifa, but a committee established and composed of several ministers.”
The fundraising committee was headed by Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, who personally flew to Egypt and handed the money directly to players.
“If the public gets wind of such, it will be damaging to the ministry and not to Zifa. The same Zifa Board acting out of maturity that is now being publicly attacked, chose to keep quiet realising those that make up the committee and how such might have been abused by certain elements for political expediency. To this extent you have never heard them defending themselves that maybe SRC allegations of public funds must be directed to Hon Kazembe’s committee fearing the damage such will bring to senior government officials. Your SRC seems, however, eager to force this board’s hand to divulge such details. The question is who is this SRC serving? Are they really serving the government and HE (His Excellency)’s interests or something else?”
Sibanda warned Coventry that she could have been misled by SRC on the reasons and the procedure when suspending the Zifa board. He said if she fails to handle this Zifa wrangle, she risk tarnishing her image and that of the ruling Zanu PF party.
“Hon minister, I reiterate herewith what I said in our meeting this issue was not handled properly from the start. I reiterate that all available information shows you were misinformed on the real reasons for the board suspension; you were misinformed on correctness of the SRC suspension procedure which clearly is even wrong with our own laws; you were misled on the so-called restoration road map which included formation of a football Restructuring committee and conducting of an illegal EGM by some Zifa delegates. It is my considered view that the only solution to this quagmire is the lifting of the executive committee suspension so that football can be restored to normalcy as no other process can take place that Fifa will ever agree to. I also would want to repeat what l said to you in our meeting that you and l belong to one governing party and it would hurt me to see your legacy in sport being decimated with things that can be avoided; the party that we belong to losing some votes in the 2023 elections because of bad decisions that were arrived at wrongly without due process,” Sibanda said.
Last week, Coventry appeared before a Parliamentary Committee on Sports where she gave her blessing to Kamambo’s suspension. She also said the government has been financially supporting Kamambo’s board since he took office, something that Sibanda disputed.
“I urge you to get details from SRC of these government funds that you made mention in Parliament under oath. My fear is you may be misled by SRC and end up innocently misleading Parliament with things that can easily be proven as untrue and in such case Parliament may charge the one misleading of contempt. Hon minister, I say so because I have seen documentation and audited accounts of Zifa which only shows Zifa under this suspended board only received US$53 000 from the government in 2019 which it fully acquitted at the time and the entire amount was paid to players. Apart from that Zifa never took receipt of any other money, so the question is which other government money did they not acquit?”
Sibanda said the Zifa EGM that was held at the weekend against Fifa’s advice and the association’s statutes, has no force.
“Zifa is currently suspended and what this means is that no decisions or meetings that are acceptable from Fifa can take place. So, to suggest that the meeting is a panacea to our problems and part of the road map for reinstatement by Fifa, is misleading. These people breached the Zifa constitution and believe you me soon you will see l was correct when Fifa eventually speaks on this issue. I therefore would rather I assist you in correctly interpreting these statutes rather than lead you astray when l know that you will be exposed in the fullness of time.”
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