IN the past few weeks, we have taken a leading role in exposing the rot that has seemingly been creeping into some of our Premiership clubs, where some rogue officials were milking players by demanding kickbacks for helping the footballers secure contracts.
We broke the story about the shenanigans at ZPC Kariba, where we established a middleman, with links to the club’s leaders, had been running a shadowy scheme in which many of the players signed by the team could have lost substantial amounts when they were forced to pay kickbacks.
This forced the sponsors of ZPC Kariba, ZESA Holdings, to institute investigations into the scam in which head coach Godfrey Tamirepi’s name has also featured prominently.
And, this week, it also emerged that our fears that this scam which first exploded at ZPC Kariba could have been widespread in the domestic Premiership and a number of our top-flight cubs and leading officials were also part of the rot, were right.
The sad events at Premiership newboys Manica Diamonds, where two executive committee members — Lazarus Muhoni and Lloyd Chinawa — were suspended for allegedly receiving kickbacks from the players who were signed by the ambitious Mutare side, made some depressing reading.
The duo are being accused, also, of having inflated the transfer fees of the players who were acquired by the club and, according to the charge, they would then share the loot with the footballers.
Such a shady practice would mean that the club, and by extension those who sponsored the team, would be defrauded by a system that was crafted to loot the coffers and enrich individuals and not develop the teams and the careers of the players who were attached to it.
It’s sad that a celebrated character like Muhoni, who blazed a trail as one of the pioneer Warriors to feature in a game at the AFCON finals in Tunisia in 2004, should have his name smeared in such malpractice given he has always represented some of the role models in the game.
Of course, just like everyone else, Muhoni is presumed innocent until investigations, which are currently underway, nail him and prove that, indeed, he was one of the architects of this rot.
But, it appears, the evidence against those who have been implicated in all this is overwhelming.
After all, a number of players are now coming out guns blazing that they were being ripped off by a corrupt system in which they were being used as pawns by their leaders in a game to enrich the bosses.
Some reports this week indicate that a number of other clubs, especially those that are being sponsored by companies, could also have fallen under this web of corruption where such dirty deals have become the order of the day.
The problem with all this is that it breeds corruption in our national game and it also has the potential of frustrating the sponsors, who are the lifeblood of this sport, and who have invested millions of dollars into it, to flee from the game and invest their money elsewhere.
No sponsor, or credible company, want their name to be associated with corrupt activities and when they pour money into sport, in general, and football in particular, they do so because they want to play a part in its development, to add value and to help many young men and women realise their dreams of one day becoming professionals.
We have been lucky in our football in recent years, where we have seen an increased number of companies, especially the mining giants, investing in the sport and creating teams that have become competitive, with FC Platinum winning the last two league championships.
Ngezi Platinum Stars, who are owned by Zimplants, have also exploded on the scene and, last year, appeared set to win the league championship, only for them to lose steam at a crucial stage.
The company has already changed the face of their community in Mhondoro/Ngezi, where they have invested a fortune in the construction of a very good stadium with all the modern facilities expected of such a facility.
They have also provided opportunities for scores of players, coaches and supporting staff to earn a decent living by playing and coaching in the game. This is what we need for our game to develop and the worst that we can do is to frustrate such companies through some corrupt activities because they can easily decide to take their money elsewhere.
We are, therefore, comforted and encouraged by the tough stance that ZIFA have taken, with the country’s football controlling body calling for thorough investigations into the cases that have unfolded at ZPC Kariba and Manica Diamonds.
We are also charmed by the way the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company’s leaders have acted in making a stand against such corrupt activities at a club under their belt, by coming up with a team to investigate what has been going on at Manica Diamonds and flush out the malcontents.
We cannot let a few bad apples, who can’t see the long-term benefits of our game’s association with such major sponsors, and only driven by their short-term interests to reap where they did not sow, to poison our football landscape and the sooner they are weeded out of the sport, the better.