Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter
AS the clock ticks towards watershed Zifa elections to be held later this year, most of the key football stakeholders in Mutare feel that the Harare businessman Philip Chiyangwa is a liability to the game and his stay at the helm of football administration in the country will only continue at the expense of the development of the nation’s most loved sport.
Chiyangwa was elected Zifa president in December 2016 to take over from Cuthbert Dube who quit his post after the councillors had resolved to revoke his mandate. But with his term of office due to expire this month and elections set for March, there are genuine concerns among football stakeholders who feel that he has messed up during his reign.
Zifa failed to hold their annual general meeting (AGM) last year, which would have paved way for elections in March, after failing to meet the constitution requirement of notifying the association’s council 60 days before the AGM. In accordance with the constitution, the December 17 aborted Zifa congress was expected to appoint an electoral committee headed by a chairman and also comprising a deputy chairman and committee members.
The Zifa elections can only be held under the supervision of the electoral committee, which should be set up at least six months before the polls for the board. Elections are also due for all Zifa’s affiliates, including the Premier Soccer League, the four regions, provinces, beach soccer and Futsal, after which the councillors will vote to elect a new board.
Zifa now maintain that it will outline the elections roadmap after their annual meeting slated for February 17 in Harare, but the Chiyangwa-led board’s reign will now lack legitimacy given the expiry of their term of office. With this in mind, Post Sport went around the eastern border city gathering views of key football stakeholders on the performance of the Harare businessman in the last two years he has been Zifa president.
Shingi Mathabuka, the owner of the now defunct Chipinge based Gaza Gunners, said Chiyangwa did nothing for the general development of football in Zimbabwe apart from his efforts with the national team.
“I think Philip Chiyangwa tried to do his best especially with regards to the senior men national team. Apart from that there is really nothing worthy writing home about that he did. We only read in the newspapers that Fifa has released some grants for football development but here in the outskirts like Chipinge we have not seen anything,” he said.
Former Warrior’s player Lazarus “Kabila” Muhoni had no kind words for the Chiyangwa administration.
“Phil is full of controversy and has never run short of it. To me he is just an opportunist not worth talking about. Firstly, he was on record saying the only national team he knows are the Warriors, thus closing the doors for the Mighty Warriors.
“Secondly, he did not do anything to develop the sport at junior level, which is something we have always bemoaned. He almost or he literally disbanded the junior national teams. Thirdly and more importantly, deserting of Zifa house and make the association rent one of his properties. There is no worse act of egocentrism than that. You can go on and on.
“He just wants to put himself in the lime light as Zifa president and benefiting himself at the expense of the nation of Zimbabwe. That is the truth as I have seen it and it is coming out of my heart as a sports and soccer personality. He has also been taking more time off from Zifa concentrating on CAF and FIFA but who put him there?” fumed Muhoni.
Former Young Warriors and Highway team manager Lloyd Chinawa said Chiyangwa also got some things right.
“Well I will give him 80% for all our national teams managed to travel for important games unlike in the past when national teams would fail to travel or securing transport in the last minute. He managed to lure sponsorship from Walter Magaya and Wiknel Chivhayo to clear some debts and that greatly benefited local football. Of course, he has his shortfalls as a human being but he did his best that personally I did not expect,” said Chinawa.
Former Motor Action goal poacher Mike Bingadadi said Chiyangwa did relatively well though he needs to learn to manage criticism.
“So far so good. He is doing well but I think he needs to learn how to manage the press and criticism from the people. He should also manage his social activities and interactions like a person who holds a top post in football administration in the country,” he said.
Edward Mkewa said Chiyangwa, and not football in Zimbabwe, has benefited from his presidency.
“To me he is not competent at all to be the Zifa president. He is self contradictory in the manner he handles issues. A good example is the Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa case. We all know that Chidzambwa does not meet the coaching qualifications that Chiyangwa administration were making noise about but they went on to appoint Chidzambwa the national team coach There has not been any benefit yet for Zimbabwe football since his ascendency to the top office save for personal gains for Chiyangwa and a few individuals surrounding him,” said Mkewa.
Chiyangwa seems to have made more mistakes during his reign given the widespread criticism that fans and administrators have pointed in the past two years. The Harare businessman went on to appoint himself the chairperson of the Zifa referees’ committee thereby violating the Zifa constitution as he had no background in officiating football matches.
Only former referees lead the committee according to the constitution. Chiyangwa has been accused of attempting to meddle in the processes leading to the upcoming Zifa board elections after the recent controversial attempt to directly influence the outcome of the election process at Premier Soccer League clubs like Highlanders.
The Zifa boss was forced into a major climb down in the wake of a nasty backlash over his ill-advised move to bar the Bulawayo giants from holding its elections without the local football mother body’s authorisation. Chiyangwa was once again caught offside when he unprocedurally overruled the red card a match official flashed in the face of a Dynamos player – Christian Epuopa.
Chiyangwa is, however, credited for masterminding the downfall of Issa Hayatou – the Cameroonian former Caf president who had presided over the under-development of football in sub- Saharan Africa.