17 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Mhofu's Lawyers Challenge Fee

LAWYERS representing Sunday Chidzambwa have written to Fifa and Zifa saying the US$6 000 fee, for a case to be heard by the Special Appeals Committee set up by the association to hear Asiagate cases, is prohibitive and makes it virtually impossible for someone to contest the sanctions slapped on him.

The South African lawyers feel that a three-fold spike in the fees that are usually paid for appeals to be heard within the Zifa structures cannot be justified and is meant to be a repellant to those who might be looking at the Special Appeals Committee to challenge either the sanctions, or the verdict, passed in this match-fixing scandal.

They also want clarification to know whether one can take his case to the Special Appeals Committee, for just a review of the process that led to him being found guilty, or this channel is only open for those challenging the merits of the evidence that led to their conviction.

One of the big issues that has arisen, in the past week, is how people can suddenly take their cases before an appeals hearing when the primary channel, the disciplinary hearing, was never conducted in the first place.

For a disciplinary hearing to be heard, which is covered under the Fifa Disciplinary Committee, the person must be cited properly through charges officially being brought before him and he must also be afforded a chance to be heard before that committee.

Justice Ebrahim's committee officially invited people for "a hearing as part of an investigation into cases of match-fixing and illegal betting involving the Zimbabwe national football teams."

Farai Razano, a lawyer with South African law firm, Edward Nathan Sonnebergs, on Thursday wrote to Fifa director of legal affairs, Marco Villiger, and Zifa president, Cuthbert Dube, questioning the appeal fee that has to be paid by their client.

Chidzambwa, the most successful coach in the history of Zimbabwean football, was slapped with a life ban by the Zifa Independent Ethics Committee for his alleged role in the Asiagate scandal. Fifa have not endorsed the ban, to give it a worldwide effect, after advising Zifa that they have to first satisfy all the provisions laid out by the Fifa Disciplinary Committee in such cases.

On Thursday, Razano wrote to Dube, in a letter copied to Fifa, saying they were unhappy that, although they have opened communication lines with Zifa, the association had not replied to the issues they raised in previous correspondence with the country's football leadership.

"We have heard from widespread media reports that Zifa has now appointed a 'Special Appeals Committee' to deal with appeals emanating from the decisions made by Zifa to, amongst other people, impose a life ban on Mr Chidzambwa from football activities," wrote Razano, who also represents former Warriors' skipper Method Mwanjali and Thomas Sweswe in their battles to clear their names tarnished by the Asiagate scandal.

"We have, however, notwithstanding the fact that we have formally communicated with your office and confirmed that we act for Mr Chidzambwa, not received any formal notification of the appointment of the 'Special Appeals Committee.' Kindly confirm that such a committee has been appointed.

"Further, would you please let us have the rules that will be used by the 'Special Appeals Committee.' We assume that the 'Special Appeals Committee' will also have powers to deal with review applications and will not be limited to appeals only.

"Should we be wrong, please kindly advise per return what the powers of the 'Special Appeals Committee are which we assume would be contained in a Zifa resolution to appoint the 'Special Appeals Committee' or in a letter addressed to members of the 'Special Appeals Committee."

Razano also asked for confirmation to be provided that Zifa, indeed, set a US$6 000 fee for the appeal to be noted and heard.

"We have also heard from media reports that an appeal fee of US$6 000 will have to be paid in respect of any appeals that will be brought to the 'Special Appeals Committee. Please confirm if this is true. Should this be true, kindly advise what the appeal fees are, in respect of all the other appeals dealt with the normal/ordinary Zifa Appeals Committee. We raise this in light of the fact that we have noted from these widespread media reports that normal appeal fees range from US$1 500 to US$2 000.

"We therefore do not understand why the appeal fee, in respect of 'Asiagate' matters should be three times higher than the normal appeal fee. Mr Chidzambwa's rights to deal with this issue of the appeal fee are reserved and we will deal with the issue at the appropriate time and forum; suffice to say tat the appeal fee, if the media reports are true, is prohibitive and effectively makes it impoosible for one to file an appeal with the 'Special Appeals Committee.' We look forward to receiving the information we have requested above urgently."

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