By Petros Kausiyo and Eddie Chikamhi
SPORT, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry has once again ruled out Government interference in the operations of national associations and instead indicated that Zimbabwe was working well with various international federations that govern the various disciplines.
Coventry is in Bulawayo where she is attending Parliament’s pre-budget consultative workshop.
Although the core business of the workshop is centred on the upcoming budgetary statement, Coventry once again found herself having to address the same issue that her deputy Yeukai Simbanegavi dealt with during a question-and-answer session in Harare.
Norton legislator Temba Mliswa had reportedly asked the minister on the Ministry’s position on parliamentarians like ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa, his deputy Omega Sibanda and Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani who head their associations while also being legislators.
Simbanegavi had earlier addressed questions around the status of the trio of Chiyangwa, Sibanda and Mukuhlani.
But Mliswa felt the three were “conflicted” in holding office in the August House as well as at their respective associations.
Parliament sources said Coventry told Mliswa that: “My Deputy Minister answered that in Parliament and these people are controlled by their international sports federations.
“They come to us through the SRC and I have already said that Government will not interfere in their operations. If Parliament wants Government to intervene, then we should be ready for the consequences which include being banned by the international federations of those sports codes,” the sources said.
Coventry however, acknowledged that Government was working well with international federations, which include FIFA, the International Cricket Council and the International Olympic Committee.
The minister’s stance also put paid to spirited efforts by a clique that had sought Government interference in the final phase of ZIFA elections scheduled for December 1 in Harare.
ZIFA’s board elections will bring the curtain down on the association’s election season.
Chiyangwa and Sibanda have, however, been retained after their challengers, Gift Banda and Felton Kamambo, were disqualified from the race, with the pair’s suspensions from football activities returning to haunt them.
Kamambo had sought to challenge for president, while former Njube Sundowns director Banda wanted to take on Sibanda in the battle for vice president.
ZIFA chief executive Joseph Mamutse this week wrote to both Kamambo and Banda advising them that their appeals against their disqualification could not be entertained as their suspensions were a matter that could only be dealt with by the executive or congress.
Both men have vowed to fight to the bitter end to ensure they were given a chance to take a crack at the ZIFA president and vice president’s positions.
It however, emerged that the ZIFA elections saga had taken an ugly turn amid allegations that Mamutse was now living in fear after serious threats on his life over the disqualifications.
Mamutse alleged that he had received life threats from people allegedly sent by the disgruntled former ZIFA board members who have been disqualified from running for office.
The ZIFA chief executive was confronted by unknown men at his offices on Tuesday as the elections saga took an ugly turn following the decision by the Electoral Committee to bar the trio of Mlungisi Moyo, Kamambo and Banda from contesting.
The case has since been reported at Highlands Police Station under RRB 3738870 and the police have been called to carry out investigations.
Mamutse, a media shy character, was last night not prepared to discuss the issue but the lawyers representing him confirmed that they had since lodged a police report after threatening statements were issued against the chef executive. He has also allegedly received threatening calls from anonymous callers purportedly sent by the aspiring presidential and vice-president candidates. It is alleged that Mamutse was confronted at the ZIFA offices on Tuesday after having written letters on the association’s position to reject notices of appeal by Kamambo and Banda.
Legal practitioner Keith Magorimbo, who is representing Mamutse, however, confirmed that his client was under siege.
“I can confirm there has been a case of that nature and the matter has since been reported to the police. I am sure investigations are underway. So this is all I can say for now,” said Magorimbo. Banda on Wednesday told our Bulawayo Bureau that he would continue to fight to have his “constitutional right to contest” upheld.
“As a citizen of Zimbabwe, they must allow me to exercise my constitutional right to appeal. Whether they are going to throw away the appeal is neither here nor there. I must be heard and that right cannot be taken away by Mamutse (Joseph), who is the secretariat but by the Appeals Committee, not the chief executive officer,” said Banda.
Banda also claimed that he had more supporters than Sibanda and would trounce the incumbent if allowed to contest the polls.
“If he (Sibanda) thinks he is clever, sizahlangana because what I know is that 70 percent of the people who vote in these elections are in my structures in the MDC and I know I will beat him hands down,” said Banda.
The spirited bids by Kamambo and Banda to defy their bans and appeal their disqualification has overshadowed the rest of the poll which also has six candidates for the bard member positions.
Banda was disqualified on the basis of his ban for his involvement in the Centralgate match-fixing scandal in 2011.
Kamambo was handed a suspension in April, barely a month after he had quit his post on the ZIFA board.
Mlungisi Moyo, who was eyeing a place in the ZIFA board, also failed the integrity test and this has left a field of six candidates for the four slots for board members. But there were no such problems for ZIFA finance guru Philemon Machana, media practitioner Barry Manandi, public relations executive Sugar Chagonda, businessman Chamu Chiwanza, Stanley Chapeta, and ex-referee Brighton Malandule who are eyeing the four slots on the board.
But the latest development, which saw the ZIFA head of secretariat receiving threats on his life, could provide a new twist to the ballot.