HENRY MHARA/Nyasha Chingono
FORMER Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president Philip Chiyangwa has been reported to the police for allegedly milking tens of thousands of dollars from the organisation, with documents showing that he ordered the broke association to meet the costs of his lavish birthday party two years ago, which was attended by Fifa president Gianni Infantino.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent show that Zifa, which was reeling under a US$6 million debt, paid for the expenses of the bash — also attended by Fifa secretary-general Fatma Samoura and other high-profile guests — whose bill was in excess of US$100 000.
Chiyangwa was the Zifa president until December last year when he lost to Felton Kamambo in an election. When he left, the association’s debt had ballooned to over US$8 million.
The flamboyant businessman, who is also the current Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) president, hosted an extravagant 58th birthday party on February 23, 2017 where he invited a stellar cast of guests headlined by Infantino.
The colourful event was held at the Harare International Conference Centre.Other notable guests included Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Ahmad Ahmad as well as several FA presidents and football leaders from across the continent.
Several politicians, businesspeople and socialites also attended the celebrations. Chiyangwa has denied the allegations, claiming that he actually donated millions of dollars to the association to keep it running. But police yesterday confirmed they are investigating several cases involving Zifa.
“What I can confirm is that there are several cases regarding Zifa which are under investigation. Certain cases require expert evidence. We request the parties to follow the due process of the law,” police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told the Independent.
Nyathi also denied reports that police are sitting on some cases involving the former Zifa president, who is also a Zanu PF member of parliament for Zvimba South.
Documents in our possession show that Infantino and his entourage, as well as Ahmad and all the African football leaders were accommodated at the five-star Meikles Hotel. They accrued a bill of US$17 386, an invoice which was settled in full by Zifa. The money was transferred to the hotel through the association’s Steward Bank account on the eve of the birthday party.
Infantino, the records show, stayed in the hotel’s presidential suite, which cost Zifa US$1 500 for the single night he spent in Harare. Samoura’s room cost US$257.
Over 30 other guests, including former South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan, Amaju Pinnick, the Nigeria FA president, former Liberia FA president Hassan Bility and ex-Ghana FA chief Kwesi Nyantakyi, spent days in the luxurious hotel.
The guest list seen by the Independent shows that Chiyangwa was also staying at the hotel with his bodyguards, and also accommodated his business partners, including Chamu Chiwanza.
Other guests, including Chiyangwa’s then vice Omega Sibanda, were accommodated at the Rainbow Towers hotel, the venue of the party. Sibanda checked in on the day of the party, and stayed for 12 days, leaving on March 5.
For the accommodation, meals and conference facilities, Zifa paid Rainbow Towers US$10 900.A gift given to Infantino, a sculpture carved by Bryn Taurai Mteki, cost Zifa US$8 000. The association managed to pay US$5 000, leaving a balance of US$3 000. They are yet to settle it.
To keep his quests entertained, Chiyangwa invited a popular local music and dance group, Iyasa, who were paid US$2 150 for their work on the day. Records shows Chiyangwa’s personal assistant Melania Nyakudya was paid US$200 “being money for fuel and airtime,” to facilitate the delivery of invitations.
Investigations by this newspaper also revealed that Chiyangwa used his luxury cars to transport foreign guests, and billed Zifa over US$20 000 for the services.The birthday cake was also paid for by the association.
The new Zifa executive has since filed a police report accusing Chiyangwa of fraud, misappropriation and abuse of office.
Through its lawyers Ngarava, Moyo and Chikono, Zifa reported the case, among others, to the Commercial Crimes Unit (CCU) at Harare Central Police Station on November 20. The case’s docket reference number is 43/11/19.
Before reporting the case, Zifa wrote to Chiyangwa on September 2, requesting an explanation. He did not respond. They wrote him a reminder on November 20, but again drew a blank from Chiyangwa.
“Explain why your birthday expenses which you caused Zifa to fund, from hotel accommodation, car hiring, cake, venue booking and food provisions,” part of the letter reads.
In the police report, Zifa also levelled other charges against Chiyangwa bordering on criminal abuse of office, and corruption.
When contacted for comment, Chiyangwa denied the allegations. He claimed that it is Zifa which actually owes him because he used his personal funds to keep the association running.
Responding through his lawyer Itai Ndudzo, Chiyangwa said: “Blatant nonsense peddled by confused low lifers. During my term as Zifa president I donated millions to keep the game going. I did not take a cent back. I’m too blessed to steal. Check the 2016, 2017 and 2018 audited accounts for Zifa, they are self-speaking to how squeaky clean I am. I have no time for this hogwash. I have a multi-million dollar business to run.”
Earlier this week, our sister paper NewsDay published another story where Zifa was accusing Chiyangwa of misappropriating US$30 000, money he withdrew from a Zifa Ecobank foreign currency account in February this year, two months after he had been dislodged by Kamambo.
Chiyangwa said he had instructed Ndudzo to take appropriate legal action on those levelling criminal allegations against him. Late last month, Chiyangwa pressed charges against Kamambo and his deputy Philemon Machana after the two sent him text messages that he said caused him “annoyance”.
There is bad blood between Chiyangwa and his successor, with the new Zifa leader accusing his predecessor of sabotage.