Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor—
CAF president Issa Hayatou, battling to survive the pounding from Cyclone Ahmad, played his final wild card on Tuesday night by dragging ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa before the continental football governing body’s disciplinary chamber in a last-ditch move to instil fear among a rebellious electorate. The veteran Cameroonian strongman, who is battling the biggest challenge to his time at the helm of African football at landmark elections set for today in Ethiopia, finally got his way when he arm-twisted his executive committee to refer Chiyangwa to their disciplinary committee for allegedly attacking the integrity of CAF.
The Herald exclusively reported yesterday that Hayatou was set to influence his executive committee at their meeting in Addis Ababa on Tuesday to refer Chiyangwa, the COSAFA president who is also the campaign manager of challenger Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar, to the CAF disciplinary committee.
“At its meeting on March 14, 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the presidency of Issa Hayatou, the executive committee of the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) unanimously recommended the CAF Disciplinary Board to proceed with the case of COSAFA president, also president of the Federation of Zimbabwe, Mr Philip Chiyangwa who has multiplied actions and statements recently that appear to attack the honour of CAF, its president and the members of the Executive Committee,” a statement released by CAF late on Tuesday said.
The CAF disciplinary chamber, which is led by former South African Football Association chief executive Raymond Hack will have to establish if there is a case that warrants them to charge Chiyangwa who is accused of violating the organisation’s statutes through his comments he is said to have made in a local newspaper describing the CAF executive as cowards.
The vice president of the CAF disciplinary chamber is Elvis Chetty, the president of the Seychelles Football Federation, which means that the top two members of the committee are from the COSAFA region.
The other members are Yousouff Ali Djae of Comoros, another COSAFA member, Francissco Calvaho Neto of Angola, Ahmad Mohamed Megahed Osman of Egypt, Christopher Abdul Kamara of Sierra Leone, Gbenga Elegbeleye of Nigeria, Mulindahabi Jean of Rwanda, Gregoic Zowaye of the Central African Republic and Samugabo Mustapha of Burundi.
Should the CAF disciplinary committee agree that there is substantial evidence to bring a case against Chiyangwa, they will then inform the ZIFA and COSAFA boss and call him to a hearing, where he has a right to defend himself, before they pronounce judgment on the case.
In the event that Chiyangwa feels unhappy with the judgment, he has a right to appeal.
But all this could change dramatically in the event that Hayatou is elbowed from his position as head of CAF with Ahmad and his leadership certain to view this as part of a witch-hunt that was meant to silence voices of dissent in the way the Cameroonian has been running the game on the continent.
FIFA, also, could play a key role here, should they feel Chiyangwa is being victimised by Hayatou and his colleagues or, as is also largely expected in the event the Cameroonian strongman wins the poll today, the world football governing body’s Ethics Committee rule that the CAF president isn’t suitable to hold office.
Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president, won the poll to retain his job, but was forced out a few weeks later.
The FIFA Investigatory Chamber have confirmed they are looking at material submitted by those who feel Hayatou does not fit the criteria to stand as CAF president.
FIFA said they could not stop Hayatou from competing tomorrow because the issues were raised late and there won’t be time to give the Cameroonian a chance to defend himself.
“We refer to your correspondence dated 7 and 8 March, 2017 as well as the annexes regarding concerns over the eligibility of Messrs Issa Hayatou and Hicham Al Amrami for their membership and presidency of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Executive Board, which have received our full attention,’’ Miguel Polares Maduro, the chairman of the FIFA Review Committee, said in a letter to some concerned CAF members who wanted to block Hayatou from seeking re-election.
“In this regard, we kindly inform you that due to the extreme proximity of the elections taking place at the CAF Congress and the complex nature of the allegations raised in your correspondences, it is not possible for the Review Committee to re-open the eligibility process without infringing on Mr Issa Hayatou’s right to be heard and to a fair procedure.
“Therefore, the Review Committee will forward your correspondences, including its annexes, to the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee.’’
It has been a turbulent week for Hayatou after Egyptian authorities also announced that they had opened criminal proceedings against him for the way he conducted affairs in CAF’s sponsorship deals with Lagardère Sports for the marketing of the media and marketing rights of the organisation’s competitions.
The Cameroonian’s fear of arrest, should he land in Egypt, also forced CAF to change the venue of their Congress from their traditional headquarters in Cairo to Addis Ababa.
Hayatou is being charged alongside CAF secretary-general Hicham El Amrani.
Yesterday, Chiyangwa said he was not in a position to comment on the decision by CAF to drag him before their disciplinary committee saying he could not speak when he had not been served with summons.
“I think you can understand that these are complex issues that have a lot of legal connotations and I cannot answer simply because you telling me there was a resolution passed to refer me to the disciplinary committee,’’ said Chiyangwa from Addis Ababa.
“As and when I get the proper documentation from CAF related to this, I will give the issue the attention it deserves and, right now, I am busy with my work here and the big story is not this one, but one that will come tomorrow.
“It’s about who will be in charge of CAF that matters my brother and we are confident with the direction that things are taking and the support that we have been receiving.’’