AS the momentum gathers ahead of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee elections, a Harare lawyer and former ZIFA disciplinary committee member Timothy Sangarwe has added his voice to calls by the Sports Commission on the incumbent leadership to ensure a credible poll on Sunday. The ZOC general assembly will converge at Prince Edward School on Sunday to elect a president and 10 other board members. Incumbent Admire Masenda faces the challenges of Joe Rugwete and Charles Mukaronda in his bid for a third consecutive term at the helm of the Olympic body.
But the build-up to that election has been stalked by controversy following concerns raised Mukaronda that the bid by incumbent board members to be allowed to cast votes is not only in violation of the constitution but not in tandem with the international best practices.
Mukaronda, who petitioned the Sports Commission, also threatened to take legal action against ZOC over the move and putting the legitimacy of the election into question. Yesterday Sangarwe, who also served on ZIFA's constitutional committee together with Tererai Gunje and Sylvester Mandishona, waded into the debate over the interpretation of the constitution.
"This (elections) is governed by Article 20 of the ZOC Constitution, and in particular, article 20 (g) thereof. The question which arises is whether article 20 (g) aforesaid is clear or ambiguous as to who is entitled to vote at the General Assembly. It provides as follows - only federations in good standing with the ZOC shall be allowed to vote at a General Assembly.
"The above is very clear and unambiguous as to who is entitled to vote at a General Assembly of the ZOC. Only Federations in good standing, and no one else.
"The cardinal rule of interpretation of a statute is to give the words their ordinary literal grammatical meaning, unless doing so would lead to an absurdity or ambiguity in the meaning of the words used. A reading of the above article does not give rise to any ambiguity or absurdity in the meaning of the article.
"There has, however, been assertions from some quarters that members of the ZOC Executive Board are entitled to vote at a General Assembly, which has led to threats of legal proceedings by one of the aspiring presidential candidates.
"It is also understood that the current board of ZOC and the incumbent president, who is also an aspiring candidate have adopted this same view.
"With respect, it is my view is that this assertion is seriously misplaced as it is not in sync with the above provision. Article 20 (g) supra does not confer such rights on the members of the current or outgoing ZOC Board.
"It only confers this right to federations in good standing, and clearly, the members of the board are not in any way a federation or members of any federation," Sangarwe said.
Sangarwe also touched on Article 12 of the ZOC constitution which he reckoned could have been misread by proponents of the move to have board mebers voting.
"In seeking to justify this assertion it is understood that the members of the outgoing board have sought to rely on article 12 (xii) of the constitution, as read with article 20 (a) which provides as follows:
"The elections of the ZOC shall be held every four years within eight months of the Olympic Games having been celebrated in terms of Article 12 (xii)."
"My respectful view is that it was never the intention of the drafters of the constitution to confer any voting rights on members of the previous board at the expense of aspiring candidates as doing so would create an anomalous situation wherein a candidate from the previous or outgoing board would have an unfair advantage over the other aspiring candidates.
"Such a scenario would be akin to a game of football where for instance, Highlanders and Dynamos are ordered to play a game of football whilst Dynamos has already been given a 1 nil score line by the referee even before the match has started.
"My interpretation of Article 20 (g) of the ZOC constitution is that the outgoing board members have no right to vote at the General Assembly.
"If the board has been doing this previously then they were doing so against the provisions of their own constitution and obviously against the rules of natural justice and fair play."