Zimbabwe: Herentals Dodge Another Bullet

27 March 2020

HERENTALS have dodged another bullet following their acquittal, on yet another match-fixing charge, by the PSL disciplinary committee this week.

The Students had been dragged into this hearing by Bulawayo Chiefs who alleged their loss to the Harare side, on the final day of the season last year, could have been manipulated.

However, the PSL disciplinary committee, who recently found Herentals guilty in the alleged manipulation of their match against Black Rhinos last year, cleared the Students on this charge.

They also took a swipe at Bulawayo Chiefs' claims, which they described as mere speculation.

The Students have been in the eye of a storm, in recent days, and were this week expelled from the top-flight league by the same PSL disciplinary committee, for taking football matters into the courts of law.

However, given the latest ruling came after the same PSL disciplinary committee had ruled to expel them, for taking matters to court, it's not clear in what capacity they were dealing with a club they said was no longer part of the top-flight league family.

Eddie Chivero, the Bulawayo City team manager who had been dragged into the saga, was also cleared by the PSL disciplinary committee.

Bulawayo Chiefs had claimed, according to the record of the proceedings, attempts were allegedly made on their head coach, Thulani Sibanda, and three players, to try and influence the outcome of their league match against Herentals on the final day of last season.

The Harare side won that game 1-0 in Bulawayo.

The PSL disciplinary committee dismissed the case saying it was based more on speculation than reality.

"What is glaring in the facts of this case is the absence of any offer or bribe, whether direct or indirect, to any member or representative of Bulawayo Chiefs by a Herentals official or representative," the judgment read.

"Whilst Mr (Paul) Benza's telephone call was clearly suspicious, nothing much can be read into it since there was no further attempt to communicate with Sibanda.

"The hearing was not given any reason to reject Benza's explanation that Sibanda had previously expressed interest in joining Herentals Academy and he felt that this was a good time, as any, to discuss since he would not be travelling to Bulawayo a long time.

"As regards (Tarisai) Taderera, nothing was placed before the Committee which would have linked him to Herentals FC or which suggested any intention to bribe or compromise its players. The same goes for Chivero.

"Quite frankly, we are surprised that Bulwayo Chiefs found it necessary to lodge any complaint when it was actually within its powers to gather evidence, Bulawayo Chiefs, or at least its coaches, appeared anxious to preventing access to its players than getting to the bottom of the apparent suspicious behavior.

"They were well positioned to set a trap which could have helped to bring the culprits to book.

"As it is, linking Chivero or Taderera to the accused (Herentals) would be pure speculation. It seems to us that it is in fact Bulawayo Chiefs which should carry out an investigation its own players, and officials, to ascertain whether there were compromised or not and only lodge a complaint in the face of such evidence instead of speculating about it simply because of an unfavourable result or events that do not point to an attempt bribery.

"It is trite that for an adverse inferences to be drawn, they must be premised on other known, or attempted facts, which warrant such inference, this is not the case here (and) accused is accordingly found not guilty and is hereby acquitted."

Chiefs had claimed there were attempts to influence the result of their match.

"On the 13th of December 2019, the head coach of Bulawayo Chiefs FC, Thulani Sibanda, received a call from Paul Benza, the Herentals FC assistant coach, wanting to see him as he was getting into Bulawayo," the judgment reads.

"Sibanda refused to meet him on that day, saying he was not anywhere near (Bulawayo) and suggested they meet the following morning at around 8.30am, that was the end of the conversation and the two did not meet or talk the following morning, as agreed.

"Prior to that, some 14 minutes or so earlier, Sibanda received another call from one Eddie Chivero, who is the manager of Bulawayo City FC, who claimed he wanted to see him in connection with one of Bulawayo Chiefs players, Hugh, Chikosa, regarding his (potential) deal in South Africa."

The Chiefs coach, according to the judgment, was later advised that two of his players, Arthur Musiiwa and Sikhumbula Dubi, had allegedly also received a call from someone, who identified himself as Tarisai Taderera, who wanted to see them at the hotel's reception.

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