ZIMBABWE Football Association (Zifa) chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya could find herself in deeper trouble after it emerged this week that her trial at the Harare Magistrates Court had been “fast-tracked” in suspicious circumstances.
An investigation is underway at the Attorney-Generalâ€™s Office into the questionable circumstances that led to the 38-year-old Rushwayaâ€™s trial on theft charges being brought forward by two months, according to sources.
The trial was scheduled to start on February 8 but was brought forward to December 12 â€” a time during which magistrates were on strike for better salaries. The sources said the hearing has been deemed “unprocedural” and a fresh trial has been ordered on a date yet to be decided.
Magistrate Lazarus Murendo, who presided over the “fast-tracked” trial, has since recused himself from the case although he did not give any reason.
However, the sources said Murendo could have stood down after rumours that he had allegedly been bought some medication by Rushwaya surfaced.
It is also suspected that Rushwaya and her two colleagues who are supposed to be state witnesses could have initiated underhand dealings with prosecutors in order to fast-track the trial and get the Zifa official a favourable judgement.
Police investigations into the suspected underhand dealings have since led to Rushwaya being arrested on another charge of attempting to defeat the course of justice.
The state alleges that Rushwaya sought the services of the director of Legea Zimbabwe to forge an invoice purporting she had paid US$2 300 to the sporting kit supplier in October in a bid to cover up her previous case of theft from Zifa coffers.
The court heard that in Rushwayaâ€™s alleged theft case, there was no mention of Legea in her defence.
Harare magistrate Archie Wochiunga this week remanded Rushwaya out of custody to March 13 on $100 million bail.
Rushwaya claims the charges are trumped up by her political opponents. This month she failed to secure the ticket to represent Zanu PF in Gutu South in the March 29 parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, Zifa is under pressure to suspend Rushwaya pending the finalisation of her court cases.
Zifa set a precedent when it suspended Jonathan Mashingaidze, then the associationâ€™s chief executive, on the basis of media allegations implicating him in a 2006 World Cup ticket scandal that never was.
Former Zifa CEO and director of football Ndumiso Gumede was also suspended on allegations of “poor performance” in 2004, the same time that director of administration Lazarus Mhurushomana was laid off.
Football administrators and fans have been wondering why Zifa chairman Wellington Nyatanga has not acted on Rushwaya, whose arrival and ascendancy in football administration remains questionable.
Rushwaya, who held the dubious post of director of sport in Vice-President Joseph Msikaâ€™s office, was appointed Zifa chief executive on March 1 2007 even though there is no record of the post being advertised or job interviews being held.
Before that Rushwaya was the spokesperson of the Warriors Trust Fund, established to raise money for the national teamâ€™s participation at the African Nations Cup finals.
Former Premier Soccer League chief executive Chris Sambo said Zifa should suspend Rushwaya, who is suspected to have links with the Central Intelligence Organisation, until she is cleared by the courts.
“If one has to go by past precedents, then she (Rushwaya) should have been suspended,” Sambo said. “Good corporate governance demands that where there is prima facie evidence of a corrupt practice, the correct position would be to suspend that individual either on full benefits or without benefits until such time the matter has been finalised by the relevant determining authority.”
He added: “This is what happened in the case when Mashingaidze was suspended on baseless press allegations. The same applied to Gumede who was suspended on allegations of poor performance. So there is no reason why this case should be treated differently.”
Former Dynamos secretary-general Brian Kashangura, an ex-prosecutor and security consultant, concurred with Sambo.
“If people are trying to victimise her when such allegations fly around, it would be in her best interests to step aside, clear her name first and come back later,” Kashangura said.
“She has done so well in terms of football administration at Zifa in such a short time, but for now she has to come clean on the allegations first.”–Darlington Majonga