Can Phillip Chiyangwa be stopped?

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Phillip Chiyangwa

A MONTH before the important election — barring any dramatic developments —Phillip Chiyangwa looks set to be in charge of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) beyond the December 1 polls.

By Enock Muchinjo

What is puzzling is that for all the vocal opposition against Chiyangwa’s administration, no strong candidate has emerged to challenge the incumbent.

Absence of trust in the electoral process, and also fear of defeat or manipulation — the process was dominated when the Harare tycoon first romped to victory in December 2015 — are without doubt a major cause of the lack of will among those with the kind of profile or clout to take on Chiyangwa and possibly defeat him.

But it is bewildering, even so, that the anti-Chiyangwa camp has continued to whine and hurl all sorts of accusations without a clear strategy or united front to dislodge him. The longer the anti-Chiyangwa sentiments drag on without a feasible plan to unseat him, the more it sounds like hot air.

For now, it is not too clear if the very bold move by the underdog Felton Kamambo to run against Chiyangwa for the top Zifa post is borne out of some kind of coalition or any meaningful behind-the-scenes groundwork. It could turn into a token challenge if that is not the case.

From the looks of it, it does not appear like any spirited alliance is behind it.

It seems those that cannot stand Chiyangwa’s leadership are waiting for some kind of saviour from somewhere, a knight in shining armour to save the day for them outside the constitutional process of the Zifa executive committee elections set for December 1.

But that is nowhere in sight at the moment.

A report of an enquiry set up by the dissolved Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) board — to look into, among other issues, the extension of Chiyangwa’s administration beyond the March 2018 term expiry — is said to be tucked somewhere in the offices of the Ministry of Sport, Youth, Arts and Recreation.

Whatever its findings, we do not know. And as matters stand now, there seems to be no rush to act on that report.

Meanwhile, the election date is fast approaching.

A few months ago, there were loud cries meant to draw the attention of Fifa to the Zifa situation. But, frankly speaking, it is somewhat ignorant to how the world football governing body operates.

It is hard to see Fifa considering what is happening in Zimbabwe as much of a crisis, compared to, say, the corruption and bribery scandal in Ghana, which has crippled the sport in that country and left the West African nation wallowing in shame. And while Fifa president Gianni Infantino might not exactly fervently back Chiyangwa and company as some would like us to believe, once an assurance was made that the elections would after all be held before the end of year, it would be naïve for anyone to expect a little more than a slap on the wrist for Zifa from Zurich.

Put plainly, the Zimbabwe issue will be a sideshow to Fifa at the moment.

Moreover, results on the field have been quite pleasing and while many amongst us will attribute the good run to the players’ own talents and ingenuity — and with good reason too looking at the current crop of players — sports administrators do take an incredible amount of flak for poor results so it would only seem fair for the same administrators to take a share of the glory when results go the right way.

Meanwhile, the entry of MDC Alliance official Gift Banda, an elected Member of Parliament and former deputy mayor of Bulawayo, is another interesting twist to the Zifa elections.

Banda will challenge incumbent Omega Sibanda, a Zanu PF MP, for the vice-presidency of Zifa.

Banda, just like Sibanda, has some previous experience in football administration, but the invasion of football by fully-fledged politicians means those that regard themselves as “football people” will, for now, continue to be bystanders at the highest level of their sport’s governance in this country.

Nothing new in many countries worldwide, but the direct political presence at the top echelon of football administration is a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe.

Even the ex-president’s nephew Leo Mugabe, obviously Zanu PF by birth, membership and association — was never a top-ranking official of the party, let alone a Member of Parliament, when he headed the country’s football association.

What a unique development it will be, to have the two fierce foes in local politics represented on the board of the nation’s favourite sport.
But for now, a more intriguing ending will be to see who gets the last laugh between Chiyangwa and his fierce critics.

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