CUTHBERT Dube, the former Zifa president, was once hailed as “God’s chosen one” by a member of the association’s Council — an electoral college that votes into office the all-powerful cabinet of Zimbabwean football, the Zifa board.
By Enock Muchinjo
Such kind of praise-singing choruses became regular occurrence under Dube’s reign, not least from this particular elderly gentleman from the Midlands, well-known for his overflowing flattery of the former Zifa boss. Old habits die hard.
Three years after the ex-Zifa supremo was forced out of office under a sustained barrage of all-round condemnation, his successor, Phillip Chiyangwa, has been smothered with a fair share of fanatic idolisation from the same councillors who used to swear with their lives in pledge of loyalty to Dube.
But, of course, previous venerations were never as grand as Tuesday’s gathering at the Zifa headquarters in Harare after the association sent out a notice for a “press conference”, which, it was, of course expected, would address the national team’s preparedness for this weekend’s crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Liberia.
It turned out nothing like anybody imagined, with perplexed hacks finding out that they had in fact been summoned to cover not a press conference, but a praise-singing show camouflaged as an awards ceremony for Chiyangwa, Sibanda and senior board member Philemon Machona.
The three men were all honoured by Zifa’s 10 provincial chairmen — members of the Council — and were presented with shields for outstanding service to the game.
Still under stern attack for the controversial move to disqualify challenger Felton Kamambo from the race for the post of Zifa president, there could not be a more appropriate time than now, Chiyangwa must have thought, to bring together all 10 provincial association chairmen — who all vote — to declare their absolute confidence in him and show detractors that one-man poll or not, he was still firmly the preferred one.
One of the provincial chairmen and the first speaker — a soft-spoken fella with a dry sense of humour — rumbled endlessly about how a great man Chiyangwa was, chronicling the Zifa head’s list of lofty achievements in both sport and politics.
Unsurprisingly, our rumbling friend was not the least bit aware of the growing agitation among the press corps, who just couldn’t wait for him to zip up. But he had serious competition from one Derrick Matapure, chairman of Zifa in Mashonaland West province.
Addressing Chiyangwa’s right-hand man, Sibanda, Matapure applauded the Zifa vice-president for reversing his decision not to seek re-election at the previous election in 2015.
Sibanda, who was also vice-president under Dube, had apparently grown frustrated and deterred, according to Matapure, by the unwarranted criticism from some people only hell-bent on hindering the development of football in Zimbabwe.
So for a great asset like Sibanda not contesting the elections would have been akin to, in Matapure’s words, “abandoning” the football-loving public of Zimbabwe.
Sibanda, who is a saner version of his boss, looked justifiably embarrassed by the excessive praise. And it is normal of fairly sensible people to feel rather uncomfortable in the face of the kind of generous praise that they know, deep down, to be hardly deserved.
But when bootlicking has been developed to such a fine art as the case in this country, to be almost part of our national culture, you will come to expect some undue adulation to come your way on occasion — especially when those currying favours, in their desperation, have lost all sense of self-respect and personal worth.
Amid the farce, though, emerged someone worthy of admiration — the reporters. As their way of refusing to dignify the circus, they declined a desperate offer to ask questions.