The ruling party Zanu PF has been blamed for its policies that have resulted in the economy of this country collapsing.
By Our staff
This has not happened in the political and social fronts alone. Zanu PF officials have also been involved in football leadership and their ways of doing things has taken Zimbabwean football to its knees.
A close look at the leadership that has been at the Zimbabwe Football Association shows that Zanu PF has had a big say in football. There was Leo Mugabe, Rafiq Khan and Wellington Nyatanga before Cuthbert Dube and now there is Phillip Chiyangwa as the new Zifa boss.
Former minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart says the ruling party’s tight grip on Zimbabwe sport for the past two decades has negatively affected the growth of the sport in the country.
He, however, said he supported newly-appointed Chiyangwa and urged people not to rule him out.
“For many years, Zimbabwean sport has been politicised, but one thing for sure, people should not rule out Chiyangwa. He has a point to prove. He might surprise many. From the first day that he got into office, he would do anything to try and show the general public that he has a lot to offer. But he has to be quick,” Coltart said.
The former minister said Zanu PF realised from long back that sport, especially football, is a unifier; therefore holding strong to the most followed sport has given them an edge over opposition parties.
“If you look at it closely, Zifa has been labelled Zanu PF in the past two decades. The ruling party managed to use the most followed sport to gain popularity,” he said.
Coltart spoke on the consequences of politicised football.
“For the first time, we are not part of the ongoing World Cup 2018. These are some of the problems of such leadership. Zifa has always been in problems because most of the people are like political appointees,” he said.
Coltart said it was now time for Chiyangwa to show some change.
“I think Phillip has come at a good time. He has to show us something positive.”
Zanu PF started to stretch its influence into Zimbabwean soccer with the arrival of Mugabe at the Zifa leadership.
Zifa Liaison Officer Simeon Jamanda says he thinks that it was mere coincidence that there was a succession of Zifa leadership coming from within Zanu PF.
“Personally, I don’t think most of them went in there on that ticket. If you look at it, most of them apart from Leo did not come in the open about their political affiliation. It’s only when they are in there that they start aligning to the ruling party. More so, qualifications to be at Zifa do not require any political linkages,” Jamanda said.
He, however, admitted that all those leaders that have been at the helm of the football association had failed to raise the game.
“It’s a dangerous situation, as you can see what has happened to our football today. I think we need people with an open mind,” he said.
Veteran football administrator Richard Maseko also agreed that Zanu PF has had a tight grip on Zimbabwe’s football leadership.
“It has been like that ever since and it’s very clear. But as you have clearly said, it’s a way of trying to get that support and keep the multitudes. But the results are seen in the state of our football, which I am not going to dwell much on,” Maseko said.
Former football administrator Ndumiso Gumede said; “Like you clearly said from the Leo era, what happened is that when Leo got in he brought with him a number of councillors who were aligned to the party. So until today, we still have a residue of those councillors and they are the ones who sway the pendulum,” he said.
He added, “The party sees football as an important constituency which they should not ignore. So they try by all means to take control.”
Gumede said in most cases the leaders were not there for the good of the game, but the party.
“Look at what is happening today in the Twine Phiri saga. They have started labelling him Gamatox, which is very wrong. They have other interests which have nothing to do with football,” Gumede said.
Mugabe was Zifa boss for a decade before he was ousted in 2002.
His 10-year reign saw him holding on to power, resisting efforts to push him out, especially towards the end of his tenure.
Goodson Nguni, a well-known Zanu PF sympathiser, was Mugabe’s campaign manager when he was first elected into power in 1993.
There were views that Mugabe was using football to raise his profile as a politician as he went on to become a Member of Parliament on a Zanu PF ticket.
While Mugabe’s political status was open due to his relationship with the president, the same could also be said of Rafik Khan who became the chairman of Zifa in 2004.
Khan was the Zanu PF treasurer for Harare province when he was first elected into football office as chairman of the Premier Soccer League in 2001.
Although Khan never boasted about his association with Zanu PF, he went into office with his treasurer’s post until when he was deposed during the days he went into Zifa.
The only Zifa president who went into office with no Zanu PF background behind him was Nyatanga, although his cousin Eddie Mboma Nyatanga, who is the president of the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association, is known to have big political associations within Zanu PF.
Other analysts said since Nyatanga was not actively involved in Zanu PF politics, in order to maintain its stranglehold on football, the party manoeuvred in a Zanu PF apologist Henrietta Rushwaya as chief executive officer to keep the Zanu PF control on football.
They said the departure of Nyatanga saw the entry into the limelight of Cuthbert Dube, a very close associate of Leo during their days in Zifa when he was board member finance.
But will Chiyangwa do the opposite of what other Zanu Pf football leaders did? Only time will tell.