Moment of truth...Zifa holds elections

HARARE - After many months of waiting and delays, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) councillors finally vote for a new executive committee in the capital today.

This election really commenced last year when Zifa’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in December was aborted.

After breezing through his first two years in office, Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa finally realised he had a fight on his hands.

On that fateful afternoon, the Zifa assembly refused to go ahead with the meeting since the notice and agenda had not been dispatched in the appropriate time according to the statutes.

This aborted AGM precipitated the current state in which Zimbabwean football finds itself in ahead of today’s election.    

Having been elected into office in December 2015 at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to replace Cuthbert Dube, whose term in office had been cut short in October that year, Chiyangwa’s tenure was supposed to end in March this year.

When the Zifa AGM was finally held in February, the gathering could not agree on the timelines of the elections. At some point, Chiyangwa and his inner circle insisted they still had another 22 months in office since the term of office of a Zifa executive committee is four years.

What they had forgotten was that they were voted into office at an EGM to replace Dube and his team who had their mandate revoked by congress. Dube had been re-elected into office in March 2014 which meant the next election was supposed to be held in March this year.

Since Zifa elections have a prescribed timeline in the constitution, the February AGM could not agree on a proper timeline to meet the March deadline. Zifa elections begin at the grassroots level in the Area Zones ten moving on to the provinces, Regions, Beach Football, Futsal, Nash, Naph, Women’s Football and then the Premier Soccer League.

After all these polls have been concluded, the Zifa executive committee can be elected.

All this could not be completed inside one month, forcing the Zifa assembly to seek guidance from Fifa.

With Zimbabwe football in limbo while Zifa still waited for a response from Fifa, two board members Paraishe Mabhena and Felton Kamambo resigned at the end of March.

Chiyangwa, vice president Omega Sibanda and board member Philemon Machana remained behind well after their term of office had expired.  

Then in April, Fifa finally responded to the matter and ordered Zifa to hold elections immediately.

“We can confirm that Fifa has sent a letter to Zifa ...informing them that given that the current Zifa executive committee inherited the four-year mandate of the previous executive committee under ... Dube that began in March 2014, elections of a new Zifa executive committee should take place as soon as possible in accordance with the Zifa statutes and regulations,” Fifa said in a statement.

“Consequently and in accordance with the Article 2 letter c of the Zifa Electoral Code, the incumbent Zifa executive committee remains until the next election.”

This determination by Fifa allowed Chiyangwa and the remaining board members to stay in office in the run-up to today’s election despite their term ending in March this year.

There are at least six candidates vying for the available four posts in the Zifa board namely Machana, Chamu Chiwanza, Brighton Malandule, Sugar Chagonda, Stanley Chapeta and Mlungisi Moyo.

Chiyangwa is seeking re-election and will go up against Kamambo for the Zifa presidency.     

Sibanda is also seeking another term in office and will be up against Banda.

The Daily News on Sunday takes a look at the all the candidates ahead of today’s poll.

Philip Chiyangwa

Although he was a novice in football, Chiyangwa surprised many with his bid for the Zifa presidency in 2015.

He is a self-made businessman and his empire is built on the back of daring and risky investment choices that have yielded huge returns. Chiyangwa swept to victory after defeating his closest challenger Trevor Carelse-Juul. Although he said he was coming in to finish off Dube’s term, Chiyangwa is now seeking re-election.

In the short time he has been in office, the maverick businessman has used his charm to endear himself to Caf president Ahmad Ahmad and Fifa boss Gianni Infantino.

The Zanu PF legislator for Zvimba  South has also steadily risen in football circles as he was elected unopposed to be the president of Cosafa and is also now vice-chairperson of the Caf Afcon Committee.

When he came into power, he promised to help Zifa expunge their ballooning debt which now stands at $7 million.

However, nothing concrete has been done to deal with the debt except for a failed attempt to liquidate Zifa and escape from creditors.    

Chiyangwa also presided over an embarrassing incident when the Warriors refused to attend a dinner gala hosted by the then Zimbabwe vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa on the eve of their departure for the Afcon finals in Gabon.

Later on in his term, Chiyangwa started wielding the axe as he banned and suspended all his perceived enemies.

He also decamped the Zifa secretariat from their headquarters at 53 Livingston Avenue before hosting them at his Highlands personal offices.

Although he says he has mandate from congress to host the Zifa secretariat, Chiyangwa will have pocketed at least $420 000 in rentals when lease between Zifa and his company expires in September 2021.

He has been preparing for this election for the better part of this year while his challenger only had a few weeks.      

Felton Kamambo

After resigning from his Zifa board post in March, Kamambo made it clear that he was going to seek re-election.

At that point, he probably thought it was just going to be a formality before he knew the struggle he was going to face just to be on the ballot for today’s vote.

The former Silo United chairperson faced hurdles every step of the way in order to just reach this day.

He was denied nomination papers by the Zifa secretariat before he eventually sought the intervention of the Electoral Committee.

After filing his papers, Kamambo was disqualified on frivolous grounds.

He was also accused of sexual harassment against members of the Mighty Warriors squad during his time as Zifa board member.

In another twist, he was also barred on the grounds that he had failed to pass an integrity test conducted by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.

His appeal was also thrown out by the Zifa Appeals Committee but he remained steadfast and approached Fifa.

After the intervention of Fifa director of development for Africa and the Caribbean, Veron Mosengo-Omba, Kamambo was finally reinstated on November 27, leaving him with little time to campaign for today’s election.

In his manifesto, Kamambo has promised a lot of reforms at Zifa with the association secretariat’s return to 53 Livingston Avenue as one of his main goals.    

“Since the last election, the current board has failed to deliver on its mandate, owing to an increasing tendency to move from the collegial function of the board to a seemingly one-man management approach, which in the end has proved more costly,” he said.

“My administration will not run away from the debt as it will be our responsibility to interrogate the debt situation through engagement of creditors and debtors alike before coming up with a realistic debt servicing plan which shall enlist the services of government, Fifa, Caf and members of the football family.”

His biggest Achilles heel though will be the limited time to campaign that he enjoyed in the run-up to these elections.

However, the fight he put in to make sure he is allowed to challenge Chiyangwa has earned him a lot of sympathy in football circles.

This makes him a big threat to Chiyangwa in today’s poll because of the underdog tag he carries against a candidate who thought he already had it in the bag.

Omega Sibanda

Sibanda has been a close confidante of Chiyangwa ever since they teamed up in the campaign trail ahead of the 2015 December election.

His rallying call ahead of today’s election has been that of continuity in order that they finish the work they started three years ago.

Just like Chiyangwa, Sibanda also enjoys the power of incumbency and has a good shot at retaining his post. 

Gift Banda

Banda also fought a bitter struggle in order to be nominated and cleared to take part in these elections.

He was barred by the Electoral Committee from running against Sibanda and also had his appeal thrown out.

He believes he is equipped with the right tools to be in the Zifa executive committee following the experience he gained during his days as proprietor of former Premiership side Njube Sundowns.

“I was in football before. I spent a lot of money in football. I was the youngest owner of a football team in the country.

“At 27, I was already a club owner and that experience will surely come in handy if voted to become the next vice-president.

“I am a football person; I understand what it means to run a PSL club and what it also means for those clubs that are involved in grassroots,” he said.

Philemon Machana

Machana has remained very coy in the run-up to today’s elections and rarely gave interviews regarding his candidature.

After having decided to campaign in silence, the Zifa board member responsible for finance finally surfaced after a local weekly made damaging fraud allegations against him.

“Fifa does not pay any Football Association (FA) funds to individuals and has not and will never do such transactions,” he said in statement last month.

“For the past three years, including 2018, Fifa has been sending its own auditors to audit all Zifa transactions regarding the FAP funds and in all instances Zifa has been found to be clean.”

Brighton Malandule

The former top-flight referee entered today’s poll because of his desire to see more Southern Region representatives in the Zifa board.

Having spent close to a decade officiating in the Premiership and with an accounting background, Malandule is confident of success.

“I am entering this race for a seat on the Zifa executive committee because I am driven by my passion and love for football,” he said in his manifesto.

“I realise that as football leaders we need to put aside the politics of football and stand up and work for the development of the beautiful game in Zimbabwe.”

Mlungisi Moyo

Just like Kamambo and Banda, Moyo also endured a great battle in order to be allowed to take part in today’s poll.

He was barred by the electoral Committee on the same grounds as those of Kamambo and Banda.

“A lot of guys are saying I should go for it, and like I said, I have no problem with that, but I need to make proper and thorough ground work, largely because of the financial requirements and other pressing issues which I might have because this is the highest post in football which needs one to be totally committed to, not on a part time basis,” Moyo said recently.

Moyo will be hamstrung by the limited campaigning time he was afforded ahead of today’s election which will make it hard for him to land a post in the Zifa board.

Sugar Chagonda

Chagonda intends to summon his experience in the corporate world to help change the face of local football if voted into office today.

Chagonda, who is also the secretary-general for newly-promoted Premiership side Manica Diamonds, has been in the marketing and public relations sector for many years.

With the backing of the entire Eastern Region behind his candidature, Chagonda has a good chance of making it into the Zifa board.

Chamu Chiwanza

The Affirmative Action Group president is another surprise candidate for these elections and appears like he is following in the footsteps of his mentor Chiynagwa.

Chiwanza has made his name in the lobbying and business sector over the years which left many people surprised by his nomination.

The youthful businessman, however, has a perfect explanation for his desire for football administration.   

“I have had a lot of people and I mean serious football people coming to me and asking me to consider contesting for one of the Zifa board positions in order to help market Zimbabwean football,” he said recently.

“I’m not new to football. I have been part of the marketing committee even during the Cuthbert Dube era and also until recently.”

Stanley Chapeta

Having served in two different boards in the Southern Region and Central Region, Chapeta believes he is now ripe to sit in the Zifa board.

“I have also realised that the image of our football nationally can only improve with mature, reputable, credible, loyal and experienced men and women managing it, myself included,” he said.

“I will assist in sourcing sponsorship for our national teams from junior level to senior.

“I have worked in the corporate world as a senior manager so I will use my experience to network and convince some of the corporates to help in the development of our beautiful game through sponsorships.”

As the current chairperson of the Central region, Chapeta also enjoys great support from his base and this is likely to carry him through in today’s election.

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