CHRIS SAMBO, the former Premier Soccer League (PSL) chief executive – who has turned into a fierce critic of the current football leadership – says Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa)’s suspension of Highlanders CEO Ndumiso Gumede and PSL chairman Peter Dube were out of order and akin to denying the pair their right to freedom of expression.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
This comes after impulsive Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa expelled the Bosso chief from all football-related activities for allegedly trying to overthrow his board last week.
Gumede authored a stinging letter to Fifa detailing the association’s failings, including the failed bid to dissolve Zifa and replace it with the stillborn National Football Association of Zimbabwe (Nafaz) in a bid to sidestep creditors owed over $7 million.
The 10-page document dated July 26 2016 and entitled: Crisis in Zimbabwean Football and Urgent Need for Fifa Intervention was signed by Gumede in his capacity as former Zifa secretary-general (1980-2003) and past vice-president (2010-2014). It was copied to the working committee for the re-establishment of Zifa, Zifa creditors and Zifa staff.
“The purported ban on Gumede is irrelevant and of no legal standing,” Sambo, who is a human resources practitioner by profession, said in an interview with Standardsport yesterday.
“Gumede is a Highlanders Football Club employee; as a result, his contract of employment is governed by the Labour Relations Act and can only be terminated within the provisions of his contract and the Labour Act. The Zifa constitution cannot supersede the provisions of this statute.”
Chiyangwa, who has frequently exhibited trigger-happy tendencies since his ascension to power in local football last year, even threatened that more scalps were going to fall, a development that could throw Zimbabwe football into total disarray.
“As for the meeting with Ashford Mamelodi [Fifa official] where Gumede is alleged to have fronted attempts to remove the leadership, this is nonsensical. The meeting was attended by an array of former football administrators, including myself, former referees, Zimbabwe Women’s Football League officials, former players, ex-Zifa employees, creditors and supporters’ representatives.
“Our agenda was to save football and map the way forward in light of the attempts to dissolve Zifa and form Nafaz. Under these circumstances, there is no justification for singling out Gumede. Zifa may as well ban all of us for exercising our constitutional right to freedom of expression.”
The outspoken former PSL chief executive said a legal precedent to this effect had already been established when he was suspended by the Rafik Khan-led Zifa leadership in 2005 during his spell as PSL CEO, before the decision was reversed.
“At the funeral of the late Joseph Rusike as the PSL chief executive officer, I lambasted the Zifa leadership for failing to attend the burial of this veteran administrator who was a former Zifa president,” he said.
“Zifa called me to a disciplinary hearing on the basis that I had brought the game of football into disrepute through my utterances. At the hearing the case was dismissed on the basis that since I was a PSL employee, Zifa had no jurisdiction over the employees of its affiliates.”
Sambo also said he was worried by the leadership crisis created at the PSL following the suspension of Dube, saying it could have a negative impact on the top-flight league’s operations and relationship with its sponsors and partners.
Dube, on the other hand, was suspended for allegedly violating sections of the association’s constitution in the wake of the rift between Zifa and the PSL and the current promotion and relegation saga.
Dube, who is also Highlanders’ chairperson, is also is accused of interrupting formal congress proceedings and addressing delegates without seeking permission from Chiyangwa.
“As for the ban on the PSL chairman, this has created a serious leadership vacuum given the fact that the PSL has no vice-chairman and their CEO is not based fulltime at the head office,” Sambo said. “This environment does not augur well for our sponsors and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The Sports and Recreation Commission, who superintend over sport in Zimbabwe, cannot afford to sit back and watch while our football is being destroyed through nefarious decisions,” he said.
Sambo’s comments come after the local football governing body on Friday maintained its onslaught on Gumede and Dube by warning clubs “not to maintain relations of any nature whatsoever with persons and entities that have no legal recognition in the Zifa statutes or with individuals and members that have been suspended or expelled.”