18 February 2018

Zimbabwe: Chiyangwa's Bag of Empty Promises

HIS ascension to Zimbabwe's most influential football position started off as a social media jibe, and one is tempted to wish it had remained so.

It was even unfathomable that the flamboyant businessman-cum-politician Phillip Chiyangwa was eligible to contest for the Zifa president post since his football background prior to his election was virtually non-existent.

By some alleged trickery, he managed to hoodwink the Zifa electoral committee into believing he had five years of experience in football administration to enter the race and astonishingly, he won the mandate to finish Cuthbert Dube's tenure during the December 5 2015 elections.

Many say he violated Zifa and Fifa statutes during the elections through alleged vote-buying, bribery, among many other dirty tricks.

With that, the fate of Zimbabwe football was sealed, and the challenges bedevilling the sport would lurk around for a long time to come or even worsen.

After making a wholesale of too-good-to-be-true promises in his manifesto, Chiyangwa has delivered little, although he has surely enjoyed popularity outside the country's borders rising to become the Cosafa president while Zimbabwe football remains in a mess.

Lately allegations of corruption, fraud, misappropriation of funds, abuse of power, misconduct and lack of good corporate governance have dogged the Zifa chief, who seems headed for the exit door ahead of the Zifa elections.

In a desperate bid to hang on to the reins, the Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa has created a constitutional crisis that is set to throw local football into further turmoil by declaring that there would not be any election this year.

His argument that the Zifa constitution has no provision for a term, which is less than four years has been met with fierce resistance from a cross section of football stakeholders, including the country's supreme sports governing body, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).

The Sports Hub takes a look at some of the assurances enunciated in the beleaguered leader's manifesto before he assumed office, which the administrator has completely disregarded.

Zifa debt

Chiyangwa promised to restore constitutional democracy, accountability and transparency in the administration and to expunge the legacy debt through creation of innovative national and international fundraising initiatives.

But instead the debt has swelled to $7 353 324 from $6 541 879 in just under two years, according to a recent damning report produced by Zifa's auditors, Baker Tilly Gwatidzo Chartered Accountants.

During his campaign trail and soon after winning the Zifa elections in December 2015, Chiyangwa and his excecutive promised to conduct a forensic audit to establish the origins of the association's debt.

The audit is yet to be conducted.

In fact, a recent Zifa financial report compiled by Baker Tilly Gwatidzo Chartered Accountants revealed a number of anomalies, exposing how Chiyangwa earned $72 000 in 2017 alone by renting out his private business premises to the association.

Ironically, Chiyangwa relocated the association from its headquarters at 53 Livingstone Avenue in Harare to his business offices along Enterprise Road two years ago.

Chiyangwa will make a total of $420 000 by the time the lease agreement with the debt-ridden body expires in 2021.

The multimillion dollar dummy

In February 2016 Chiyangwa revealed that Zifa's financial problems would be a thing of the past after signing a bumper $100 million deal with Bangladeshi agency Total Sports Marketing (TSM), that would see Zimbabwe hosting the Robert Mugabe Intercontinental soccer tournament.

The tournament, which is supposed to be in its third year of play, was intended to include national teams from Africa and Asia and was hailed as a "game-changing move for the country's flagship sport", but nothing has been said of the event to date.

Chiyangwa also appeared to sell local football stakeholders another dummy in June last year after announcing that he had struck another deal with an international sports agency, Eden Sports Group.

The partnership was meant to promote sports tourism in Zimbabwe and to formalise and co-ordinate a tour of any English Premier League clubs during the period 2018 /2021 off-season, among other things.

The local football fraternity is still patiently waiting for the benefits to be realised from that agreement to date.

Football neglect

The Zifa boss pledged comprehensive football development from grassroots level and promotion of competitive corporate sponsorship for the Premier Soccer League (PSL), the lower divisions, right down to social football.

Very little if not nothing has, however, been done by the Chiyangwa-led Zifa excecutive in that regard.

Local football stakeholders recently told the parliamentary portfolio committee on Primary, Secondary Education, Sports, Arts and Culture that Zifa had failed and crippled local football.

Chiyangwa's reign has been characterised by a general absence of youth development, which has led to allegations from some quarters that Fifa funding meant for football development was being abused.

Most youth national teams are only assembled when they have upcoming regional or upcoming tournaments while junior women national teams such as the women's Under-17 and Under-20 teams have virtually been non-existent throughout Chiyangwa's reign.

In fact, Chiyangwa has dispensed all his efforts to boardroom battles with perceived enemies, issuing a spate of suspensions and bans to a number of football administrators deemed to be critical of his leadership.

Instead of assisting its affiliates like the PSL to acquire corporate sponsorship, the Zifa leadership has launched a spirited campaign to take over the running of the former's operations.

Chiyangwa also promised to create a special welfare fund for professional soccer players that would guarantee timely payment of their salaries and create life, work, health and disability insurance policies for them.

The Harare businessman also pledged to introduce competitive professional contracts and fees for national players and coaches but Zifa still owes the Mighty Warriors team that participated at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The Sports Hub also understands that the Warriors are still to be paid their match fees and allowances for the two friendlies against Lesotho and Namibia played late last year.

"I promise to breathe life, confidence, integrity and big smiles back into Zimbabwe's football," was the conclusion of Chiyangwa's manifesto.

Summary of Chiyangwa's manifesto

1. The restoration of constitutional democracy, accountability and transparency in the administration of the affairs of Zifa.

2. The expunging of the legacy debt through the creation of innovative national and international fund-raising initiatives.

3. Development of comprehensive soccer structures from the grassroots level and promotion of competitive corporate sponsorship for the PSL, the first, second and third divisions, the reserve league, as well as social soccer league.

4. Creation of more sports structures, especially football academies, through lobbying for appropriate special allocations and tax incentives from the fiscus.

5. The creation of a special welfare fund for professional soccer players that will guarantee timely payment of their salaries, create life, work, health and disability insurance policies for them, as well as negotiate a special dispensation with the National Social Security Association (NSSA) for sports programmes, given the short working life of professional soccer players.

6. Creation of a guaranteed and continuous revenue streams for the association by acquiring appropriate and permanent lodgings both for the national and for visiting teams.

7. Creation of a loan scheme for the benefit of national football team players through a sinking fund sponsored by the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, the Ministry of Sports and Recreation and NSSA.

8. Guaranteeing competitive professional contracts and fees for our national players and coaches in a bid to alleviate poverty among people who are household names. A relentless effort will be made to ensure uniform standards throughout all structures.

9. Ensuring that football is accorded a special national healing status as a vehicle of cultural cohesion and a dynamic platform for our ongoing diplomatic push for international positive "perception management".

10. Campaigning for aggressive gender mainstreaming of professional football through the development and sponsorship of a professional women's league with competitive conditions and compensation in order to promote football and sport in general as a viable career choice for the girl-child. Women's football structures are currently only manifest at the senior level, with no corresponding operational structures to mirror the men's leagues. Sponsorship issues around the development of women's football are the missing link in terms of achieving full equity.

11. Introduction of an innovative business advisory on existing football and sport assets through naming rights and taking our values to the regional and global marketplace through incisive and competitive corporate sponsorship.

12. Ensuring that all our professional players have decent housing and transport befitting their special status in our society, especially as our pre-eminent cultural ambassadors. Provision of housing and transport is a cornerstone of my business ethos and enterprise. I promise to bring fun, integrity and the prospect of viability back into our football by investing into it, rather than taking from it.

The hallmark of my entrepreneurship has always been daring innovation, being always ready to shake things up, while remaining conscious of the general welfare and the needs of the community.


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