Zimbabwean football has been in the doldrums for years now because of corruption, greed and lack of leadership.
THE STANDARD EDITORIAL
The so-called Asiagate scandal culminated in the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) in 2012 banning 13 players and officials for life for receiving money from notorious match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal to throw matches.
Another 69 players and officials were suspended from football activities for varying periods.
The cunning match-fixers targeted national team matches and it became clear that the Asian betting syndicates had infiltrated Zifa with then chief executive officer Henrietta Rushwaya emerging as a central figure in the scandal.
Zifa, at the time, demonstrated that it had zero tolerance for match-fixing by acting swiftly to weed out the bad apples, but the association made a fatal blunder by failing to follow Fifa procedures on dealing with such corruption.
Fifa refused to endorse the Zifa investigation and this meant that the sanctions imposed on the match-fixers did not carry any weight beyond Zimbabwe’s borders.
The mistake gave ammunition to then Zifa president Cuthbert Dube’s enemies, who trashed the noble investigation as something that was set up to settle personal scores.
Such criticism saw Dube’s successor Phillip Chiyangwa moving in to pardon the culprits, including Rushwaya, as one of his desperate ways to undo the previous regime’s legacy.
At the time, we questioned Chiyangwa’s determination to do away with such a complex matter a few days after coming into office, and before he could do any consultations with people that had an intimate knowledge of events that followed the unearthing of the Asiagate scandal.
Barely three months after we questioned Chiyangwa’s rushed decision, the excitable politician was in the news last week claiming that Zifa had uncovered a deliberate plot to fix Zimbabwe’s upcoming Africa Cup of Nations matches against Swaziland.
The Warriors date Sihlangu in home and away Group L fixtures this monthend and Zifa claims the same characters behind the sordid Asiagate scandal had laid out elaborate plans to fix the matches.
Zifa named one of its board members, Edzai Kasinauyo, Rushwaya, Perumal, former Warriors coach Ian Gorowa and current assistant coach Nation Dube as some of the kingpins behind the latest scandal.
Some of the accused people have pleaded innocence and threatened legal action, while Zifa insists it has impeccable evidence against those it has named in public as part of the ring leaders of the syndicate.
However, it is clear from the way Chiyangwa has handled the latest scandal that Zifa learnt nothing from the Asiagate scandal.
The alleged culprits have been tried and convicted before they could be afforded an opportunity to give their own side of the story.
There could be serious implications for Zifa’s amateurish handling of the matter and they are likely to be very grave for Zimbabwean football.
The match-fixers may find a loophole to escape the punishment they deserve and some innocent players and officials could be punished unfairly for crimes they did not commit.
Chiyangwa’s love for publicity is an open secret, but he should realise that the public office he now holds comes with a lot of responsibility.
It was prudent for Zifa to carry out its investigations away from the glare of the media before taking appropriate action against those found guilty.
The association should also shoulder responsibility for the latest scandal because it failed to implement recommendations made by Justice Ahmed Ebrahim.
Justice Ebrahim’s Ethics Committee that was set up to investigate the Asiagate scandal and recommend sanctions for the culprits produced an elaborate report that laid out recommendations to prevent the re-occurrence of the cancer.
Zifa was consumed by politics so much that it failed to act on the report and as a result, match-fixing has come back to haunt Zimbabwean football.