SPORT and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane has stepped in to avert the pending ZIFA presidential elections from exploding into a nasty and violent battle at the expense of the image of the game, with the minister yesterday urging peace and calm as candidates go about their campaign trail.Hlongwane’s call comes amid genuine fears that the trend which the campaigning for posts on the board presidency had taken had deviated from norms of football administration and degenerated into a barrage of threats on one another by aspiring candidates or camps aligned to the contestants.
This, Hlongwane is worried, could turn the December 5 poll into a farce.
The minister expressed dismay at the nasty route that campaigning for the ZIFA presidency was taking and warned both candidates and those aligning themselves to the candidates that Government, despite keeping an arm’s length from the polls, would not tolerate use of unorthodox means to secure control of the country’s biggest sport.
A group of former administrators, trading as Lifelong Footballers Trust of Zimbabwe, fronted by Francis Zimunya, this week waged into the ZIFA election race and petitioned Hlongwane with what has been dismissed as a frivolous document that took aim at Harare businessman Philip Chiyangwa, who they want barred from the December 5 poll.
Chiyangwa’s candidature was certified by the ZIFA Electoral committee chaired by retired Bulawayo High Court Judge Justice Sello Nare and deputised by former ZIFA vice president Tendai Madzorera.
But Zimunya, a former Northern Region chairman who since 2010, has tried without success to bounce back into the mainstream administration of football, has been rallying his group to try and force Hlongwane to intervene and disqualify Chiyangwa.
Zimunya’s camp also seemed to be retaliating to the questions that had been raised through a protest to the ZIFA appeals committee by Chiyangwa’s election agent Eddie Chivero on the eligibility of South African-based Trevor Carelse-Juul to contest for the presidency given that he has not been resident in Zimbabwe in the last five years, despite owning a property in the country.
But Hlongwane challenged all the aspiring candidates — James Takavada, Leslie Gwindi, Chiyangwa and Juul — to desist from harmful threats and instead put more energy into convincing the ZIFA assembly councillors into giving any of them the mandate to lead the country’s biggest sport until 2018.
ZIFA were left leaderless after the assembly used their constitutional power to revoke the mandate of the board that was led by Cuthbert Dube at an extraordinary general meeting in Harare on October 3.
Now Hlongwane wants those running for office to desist from mudslinging and sell their manifestos to the electorate with the minister, who has taken a keen interest in the goings on at all sporting associations, even suggesting that candidates engage in live debates on radio and television instead of waging character assassination wars.
The minister’s statement puts paid to Zimunya’s bid to derail the electoral process and sets the tone for an intense campaign battle in the remaining 16 days before the councillors converge in Harare to vote in an election that is set to be supervised by FIFA, CAF and Sports Commission representatives.
“We have received with dismay news of threats against certain candidates who are participating in the ZIFA board elections slated for the 5th of December 2015. “In light of the news, Government would like to reiterate the following:
The dissolution of the ZIFA Board on the 3rd of October 2015 has given the football community an opportunity for a new lease of life under a new dispensation. This opportunity must not be squandered.
All those interested in partaking in the ZIFA Board elections must be enabled to do so under the same electoral atmospherics.
Any threats against any candidates who have been cleared by ZIFA to stand in the election by anyone, be they participants in the election or not, will not be tolerated and condoned.
The transitional ZIFA organisation has a duty of making sure that it delivers to the football community and to Zimbabwe at large, a credible election process that has the buy in of the football community and the millions of football loving Zimbabweans,’’ Hlongwane said.
The minister also suggested that the candidates could use the platform provided by the electronic media to engage in live debates where they could articulate the plans they have of turning around ZIFA.
Hlongwane also called on ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze, who has was left in interim charge of the association to ensure there was smooth preparations for the staging of the elections.
“The Ministry of Sport and Recreation suggests that all ZIFA presidential candidates be subjected to a public debate, live on radio and/or television, to afford them a chance to articulate themselves on their manifestos. This will also assist the candidates to tolerate one another and to differ with dignity.
“Government’s intention is to remain as neutral as possible throughout this election process but a line in sand will be drawn if unorthodox means and ways are used to disadvantage any candidate at the expense of others.
“Government would like to reiterate that the ZIFA Board elections must necessarily usher in a new dispensation that unleashes football’s potential so that this very important economic sector begins to contribute to the economy of our country,’’ Hlongwane said.