ZIMBABWE Football Association (Zifa) technical director Maxwell Takaendesa Jongwe says he was the first person to catch wind of the plot to fix the 2017 Afcon qualifier matches between Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
By Brian Nkiwane
The Warriors, currently joint top of Group L in the 2017 Afcon qualifiers with Swaziland, are penciled for a top-of-the-table double header clash with Sihlangu over the Easter holiday.
However, the run up to the qualifiers between the two countries has been eclipsed by the match-fixing scandal and the alleged plot to doctor the outcome of the two matches.
In an interview with Standardsport on Friday in the capital, Jongwe said the whistleblower Leeroy Waguta, contacted him first and as the Zifa technical director, he felt the urgency to promptly report the case to his superiors.
“It was on a Wednesday two weeks ago that I got a message from Taguta [who is now Zifa’s chief witness]. I remember very well it was on a Wednesday because I missed my church service. The message was a warning of the planned fixing. ‘Something is happening behind the scenes with the plan of fixing the Warriors next Afcon match against Swaziland’, read the SMS,” Jongwe said.
After getting that message, Jongwe got together with Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa and the two realised they had received the same message from Taguta.
“From that time, I could tell that my coach was no longer in a stable condition. He started showing signs he was scared, so we agreed to ask the guy to get us more information.”
However, things did not go according to plan for the Zifa chief witness, who claimed that at one point he was chucked out of a meeting that was meant to fine-tune the strategy that was going to be employed in fixing the match, after which he sent to Jongwe another SMS that read:
“Umwe wacho anenge akuda kungwarisa, vandirambidza kurecorder conversation yavo.” [One of the guys seems to be smelling a rat; they have told me not to record anything that they are discussing].
Armed with this evidence, Jongwe called Zifa boss Phillip Chiyangwa, who said he was in Borrowdale together with the Sports and Recreation minister Makhosini Hlongwane.
“I went there alone and met my president at a restaurant in Borrowdale. Fortunate enough, he was with the minister, so we sat and I showed them all the evidence that I had. Then from there, my bosses took over that matter up to the point where we are now,” Jongwe said.
Asked to explain the involvement of players in the evidence that he got, Jongwe said: “The whistleblower mentioned that the match-fixing team was targeting Dynamos young goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva and a few other players, especially defenders.
“Yes, Tatenda’s name came up, but Pasuwa and myself moved in, talked to Tatenda and after getting the call that we were told about, he did exactly what we had instructed him to do. He recorded the conversation and made both of us know and we also took that to our bosses as evidence.”
Zifa and South African Football Association (Safa) have since joined hands in an effort to deal with the scandal. A number of Zimbabwean players based in South Africa as well as other players from that country have been fingered in the scheme.
In a meeting held between the two parties last week, the South African PSL released a statement saying they had filed charges against eight players and football officials over match-fixing, but the names were not made public.
Jongwe said people wanted to give the case a false face — that it was now a South African issue, which was wrong.
“This is not a South African, issue at all. This is our problem, let’s solve it and not wait for South Africa to tell us what to do,” he said.
In another dramatic turn of events, the world football governing body Fifa denied having worked with or engaging private investigator Terry Steans, who former Zifa chief executive officer Henrietta Rushwaya claimed gave her the go ahead to dine with match-fixers to get information on how match-fixing was done.
In response to an email sent to them by Standardsport, Fifa said they had never worked with Steans in any capacity.
“In relation to your query the individual you mention has never worked for Fifa security or as a Fifa investigator.
“The integrity of the game is a top priority for Fifa and we work closely with law enforcement agencies as well as the respective public authorities and other sports organisations on a national, regional and global level to tackle the issue of match manipulation.
“Match manipulation is a threat that undermines the integrity and credibility of football at different levels of the game. Fifa has a zero-tolerance policy on match manipulation and is committed to protecting the integrity of football by all means necessary.
“Fifa has developed a wide range of measures and initiatives to support the international football community in its efforts to protect the integrity of the game. The Fifa security division continues to develop and coordinate Fifa’s initiatives to tackle and combat match manipulation.
For more information see: Background information — Integrity in football — combating match manipulation, read part of the email.
After Steans made repeated claims that he worked with former Fifa security man Chris Eaton, Standardsport sought clarification from Fifa and again, Fifa disowned Steans.
“We kindly refer you to our previous email,” wrote Naoise King from the Fifa media desk.
Efforts to get comment from Eaton were fruitless as Fifa refused to release his contacts.
“In relation to your query, for security and data protection reasons, Fifa cannot provide personal contact details for current or past Fifa staff,” wrote King.
In his response to Fifa’s stance, Steans said: “Fifa are correct. I worked as a service provider for the Fifa security department under Chris Eaton, not a direct Fifa employee.
“My contract was with Fifa and I submitted invoices to Fifa that were paid by Fifa.
“It’s a relief they have disowned me. I’m not under investigation by the FBI or Swiss police or indeed indicted to stand trial for corruption or banned for life, unlike the many Fifa members.”
Meanwhile, Warriors team manager Sharif Mussa has called on the nation to be patient with the players whose names have been thrown around in this new wave of match-fixing allegations.
“We have a number of players whose names have been mentioned. People must be patient with them until such a time that those dealing with the matter have concrete evidence. For now they will be coming to camp with the rest of the team,” Mussa said.