FORMER ZIFA Referees Committee secretary general Obert Zhoya has been slapped with a five-year ban from all football activities by the world football governing body, Fifa after he was found guilty of sexually harassing female referees.
In a statement on Thursday, Fifa said its independent ethics committee had found Zhoya guilty of “abusing his position to sexually harass” three women. He was fined 20,000 Swiss francs (US$20,300).
“The adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee has banned Mr Obert Zhoya, former secretary general of the Referees Committee of the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) from all football-related activities for a duration of five years, after having found him guilty of abusing his position to sexually harass three female ZIFA referees. In addition, the adjudicatory chamber imposed a fine amounting to CHF 20,000 on Mr Zhoya,” world football governing body Fifa said in a statement yesterday.
Fifa said evidence including written statements from the women led to the charges against Zhoya being proven.
“Upon careful analysis of the written statements of the victims as well as the various evidence collected during the investigations conducted by the investigatory chamber, the adjudicatory chamber was comfortably satisfied that Mr Zhoya had breached art. 23 (Protection of physical and mental integrity), art. 25 (Abuse of position) and, by corollary, art. 13 (General duties) of the Code of Ethics. The terms of the decision were notified to Mr Zhoya today, the date on which the ban comes into force, and will be followed by notification of the grounds within the next 60 days in accordance with the Code of Ethics.”
The latest sexual abuse case for Fifa follows investigations and sanctions against senior soccer officials in Afghanistan and Haiti and the world football governing body reiterated its firm stance against any forms of abuse in the game.
“Fifa has a strict stance against all forms of abuse in football and the Ethics Committee handles all such cases in line with the Code of Ethics, taking into account the specificity of each. Fifa also provides a confidential, dedicated, highly secure and web-based whistle-blowing system so that individuals can report any safeguarding concerns,” the Swiss-based soccer body added.
Zhoya led the local football governing body’s referees committee with influence over training match officials and appointing them to games.
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His ban comes after the suspended Felton Kamambo-led Zifa board was accused of failing to swiftly act on the allegation that female referees were being sexually harassed by officials.
The allegations made against Zhoya, and the Zifa referees committee chairperson Bryton Malandule was first reported by local media in September 2020.
The allegations were also sent to FIFA, the global game's governing body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA).
However, a formal investigation was only instigated in December last year after the Kamambo-led board’s suspension by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) over several charges including alleged failure to act on sexual harassment of female referees and failure to account for public funds.
One of Zhoya’s victims revealed how she had been “humiliated, intimidated and degraded” after he reportedly asked her via WhatsApp to spend the night with him in a hotel.
The suspended Zifa board however allegedly dragged its feet in handling the issue with Zhoya only resigning from his position in April this year over two years after the allegations were first reported.
The suspension of the Kamambo-led Zifa board led to the country being suspended from international football due to third-party interference in the governance of the domestic game.