The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Zifa Get Ultimatum

FORMER Dynamos chairman, Ignatius Pamire, has given Zifa a two-week ultimatum to nullify all sanctions handed out in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal or face a High Court showdown.

The Harare businessman now leads a local civic group, the Pan-African Development Foundation and yesterday said Zifa's handling of Asiagate had turned into a such messy exercise it could also be described as a major scandal.

Pamire said Zifa had allegedly trampled upon people's rights and violated their constitution and the Fifa statutes in the manner they had handled such an important national exercise.

The association's decision to fine scores of players, which it found guilty in this match-fixing scandal, said Pamire, had turned into an exercise that bordered on extortion.

PANAD, said Pamire, were concerned that scores of the players could, in a desperate attempt to keep playing football, pay the fines and then expose themselves to criminal prosecution and a ban from Fifa.

Pamire said while PANAD did not condone match-fixing, or any form of corruption in football, any house cleaning exercise needed to be done within the rules and regulations governing the game.

PANAD handed their dossier, which contains their concerns, to Zifa, the Sports Commission, Fifa, Caf, Cosafa and the South African Football Association.

"We are extremely unhappy as an organisation that people are being convicted without being tried, without being given a chance to defend themselves and without the due process being followed," Pamire told a news conference in Harare yesterday.

"The bottom line is that a disciplinary hearing was never conducted for anyone in this Asiagate issue and that is violation of human rights and the rules and regulations governing such cases within Zifa and Fifa.

"By removing that right for people to defend themselves, Zifa have stripped them of their human rights and we feel that all the sanctions pronounced by Zifa are null and void.

"We are giving Zifa 14 days to nullify all suspensions, fines, bans and indeed all forms of their premature punishments failure of which we will be left with no option but to seek urgent relief in the High Court."

PANAD, Pamire said, observed that Zifa violated Articles 136 and 137 of the Fifa Disciplinary Code during their process of dealing with the Asiagate scandal.

His organisation noted key areas where Zifa might have come short in the way they handled the Asiagate match-fixing saga.

"We observe the following critical and relevant matters:

The process of investigating, convicting and punishing offenders on issues like match-fixing and illegal betting have to comply with the conditions established in Articles 136 and 137 of the Fifa Disciplinary Code.

In line with these sections of the Fifa Disciplinary Code, the Football Association should prove that:

(i) The person sanctioned was cited properly.

(ii) He/She has had the opportunity to state his/her case

(iii) The decision has been communicated properly.

The Judicial bodies of Zifa, according to Article 51 of the Zifa constitution are the Disciplinary Committee, the Appeals Committee and the Court of Arbitration.

The Disciplinary committee is the primary platform for conviction and punishment and cannot, in any way, be bypassed as is the case in this Asiagate issue."

Pamire claimed that Zifa failed to comply with the provisions of Article 137 of the Fifa Disciplinary Code in the following respects:

The people were not cited properly as required by the Zifa constitution, rules and regulations, the laws of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the rules of natural justice.

The people were not charged of any offence or transgressions in terms of the Zifa constitution, rules and regulations.

Rule 4 of the Zifa Rules relating to Misconduct and Disciplinary Proceedings succinctly sets out the procedure that has to be followed where one is accused of having committed an act or misconduct or offence.

Such people have to be charged, as an accused, before a disciplinary tribunal.

They have to be advised, in writing, the nature of the alleged misconduct or the provisions alleged to have been breached.

They have to be given a statement of facts relied upon or provided with documents, if any, relied upon.

Formal charges have to be preferred.

They have a right to question any witness used against them and rebut any evidence, if any, used against them.

The Zifa Independent Ethics Committee invited people to attend a Commission of Enquiry investigating match-fixing and illegal betting scandal involving Zimbabwe national football teams.

Zifa accepted the findings of the Justice Ebrahim Commission as the final disciplinary verdict yet, in earnest, this constituted a fact-finding exercise and data collection covering almost 300 document pages.

Pamire said Zifa were to blame for the scandal and the current board should have brought all members of the previous board before a disciplinary tribunal to answer charges as to why they let this drama unfold for so long.

Interestingly, said Pamire, the current Zifa board did not only ignore the transgressions of the previous board, but even made one of those board members, Fungai Chihuri, one of the team of their investigators led by vice-president Ndumiso Gumede.

"We seek that justice and fairness be seen to be done in the interests of democratic values, good governance, human rights and players' rights," said Pamire.

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