FORMER Zifa president Leo Mugabe has questioned businessman Phillip Chiyangwa’s credentials as the flamboyant businessman and Zanu PF politician guns for football’s top post in the country through a somewhat contentious campaign.
BY OUR STAFF
Chiyangwa last week threw his name in the hat ahead of the December elections to replace Cuthbert Dube, who was forced to step down last month to save the sport from imminent collapse.
Nominations for the top post close on Friday, and so far, only the former Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairperson and soccer legend James Takavada have formerly entered the contest.
Chiyangwa is the only one who has launched an elaborate campaign that has seen him garnering support from Dube’s former deputy, Omega Sibanda, and CAPS United majority shareholder Farai Jere.
The business mogul has also been splashing money.
He recently donated $10 000 to pay the Warriors allowances after they beat Lesotho to quality for the African Nations Championships (Chan) finals to be held in Rwanda next January.
He also pledged another $10 000 to reward the Warriors for their Chan success.
The donations drew criticism that he was trying to use his financial muscle to land the post, a development many fear would be a repeat of the Dube era, where the Zifa president was more of a sponsor than an administrator.
Chiyangwa has charmed journalists and a section of Zifa councillors, but there is a growing section of football administrators who fear for the game’s future if he lands the post.
Mugabe, who was Zifa president from the 1990s to 2003, said the association needed someone with football experience if it was to rise from the doldrums.
“All the association needs now is a football person to steer the ship, not money people like what I am hearing in the corridors and reading in newspapers,” he said.
“I have no problems with Phillip Chiyangwa. He has the money, but is he a football person?
“If we are not careful, we will remain in that Cuthbert Dube situation.”
Mugabe ruled himself out of the race, but said he was watching the election process closely as a Zifa life member.
“One thing for sure, I am not going to come back into football administration. That’s a fact,” Mugabe told Standardsport.
“But as a life member of Zifa, I have an interest in knowing who is going to come in to lead Zifa.
“Remember, as a former boss, I left a legacy at Zifa and I would want to know who will be safeguarding it.”
Veteran football administrator and former Zifa vice-president Ndumiso Gumede also raised questions about Chiyangwa, saying he does not have experience in topflight football.
“I remember him very well, having been involved in boxing. At one time, he was working in a committee together with Tommy Sithole and when we interviewed him, he showed a bit of ideas about sport management,” he said.
“My main concern will be his experience with top-flight football. So what it means is he would have to choose a team with experienced administrators that will help him out.
“I have no doubt his strength will be to unlock the corporate world to come into football, but in terms of football, he is wet behind the ears.”
Chiyangwa has shot down allegations that he does not have experience as a football administrator, claiming he managed lower division teams.
He insisted in an interview with Standardsport that he was the best man for the job.
“I think with the situation that Zimbabwean football is in, I am the only person who can save the situation,” Chiyangwa said.
“What I want is to go in there, put things in order and leave others to run in 2018. I hope I will be done sorting things out by then.”
He also brushed aside criticism that his active participation in politics would be a minus for football.
Chiyangwa has in the past unsuccessfully contested in parliamentary elections on a Zanu PF ticket.
“When we grew up, we were told that every child should go for national service,” he said.
“Some of us did not have that chance. So it’s my turn to do national service for my country.
“I am a busy businessman and politician, yes, but that will not deter me from running football properly.”
He said if elected into the post, he would require 90 days to pay Zifa’s outstanding debts and resuscitate local football by rebuilding from the grassroots.
“I think we all know that long back, football teams were forced to have academies that would play as curtain raisers at all matches in the league,” he said.
“I have to make sure that having an academy becomes a requirement for any top-flight league club in the country, so that we have feeder ranks to our national teams.”
But first, he will have to convince Zifa councilors that he has the right credentials for the hot seat.
This would include providing irrefutable evidence that he has experience in football administration.
Investigations by Standardsport revealed that he stood on shaky ground in that respect, but efforts were underway to fill the jigsaw puzzle in his CV.
Mashonaland West Zifa chairman Derrick Mutapuri, who was all along believed to have been the benefactor of Chinhoyi United — which Chiyangwa claims to have bankrolled at some point — is now singing a different tune.
“Chiyangwa was part of that project,” he told this paper following questions about Chiyangwa’s claims.
“Many people knew me as the sponsor, but the truth of the matter is that since 1993, the money came from him until 1999,” he added.
“As I speak, I am in Harare where I am going to meet Chiyangwa and I want to give him some papers that have the evidence that he has been in football for some time.”
Apart from owning Old Citrus FC and being part of Chinhoyi United, Chiyangwa was also involved in the introduction of five-aside football in this country.
“This then cements my candidature. I was one of the first people to administer five-aside football in this country,” Chiyangwa said.
Some of Chiyangwa’s backers claim he has clout as a businessman and would help restore the confidence of sponsors in Zifa.
But a perusal of his track record as an entrepreneur would unsettle many.
Chiyangwa is the founder and chairman of Native Investments Africa Group.
The company has various subsidiaries in the property, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, travel and tourism industries.
The companies include Zeco Holdings, Pinnacle Holdings and Tsivo Holdings.
He is accused of running down the once viable Zeco and other Bulawayo-based firms.
But the businessman said challenges facing some of his business units would not stop him from turning around the fortunes at Zifa.