BY HENRY MHARA
THE ongoing impasse between the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and the suspended Zifa board has taken a fresh twist with official documents showing that the local football motherbody accounted for the funding provided by the sports regulator ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.
SRC suspended the Felton Kamambo-led board a fortnight ago, accusing the group of failing to account for funds they received from the government towards the Warriors participation at the continental football showpiece in Egypt.
SRC chairman Gerald Mlotshwa initially told a press conference that Zifa’s suspension was based on seven cases, but were later whittled down to just one count of mismanagement and accountability of public funds.
Mlotshwa told the media that he had decided to take the knee-jerk decision to suspend after the association had ignored the SRC’s request, through a letter dated July 3, 2019, to account for the $53 000 that the association received from his office towards Afcon.
But documentary evidence shows that Zifa responded soon after the tournament through a letter, which was addressed to the now suspended director general Prince Mupazviriho.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association received USD$53 000 from the government, which was meant for the (team’s) 2019 Afcon tournament airfares,” read a letter by Zifa general secretary Joseph Mamutse.
Mamutse has since been suspended by the SRC on totally different allegations.
The letter continued, “The amount was received late after the team had left for Egypt. Accordingly, the funds were used to pay the national team’s allowances as per attached schedules.”
Mamutse attached proof of payments, with bank slips showing that the funds were deposited into player’s accounts on July 28, 2019, in US$2 500 batches per squad member.
A month before the tournament, Zifa had, as per protocol, informed the SRC, through a letter dated May 13, 2019, of Zimbabwe’s travelling party to Egypt.
It is in this letter that the association informed the sports regulator that the travelling contingent would also include the team’s supporters, government officials, Zifa councillors and members of the Warriors fundraising committee.
Zifa went on to charter a plane for the delegation to Cairo, which also accommodated SRC officials.
But the SRC is now demanding to know the source of the funds.
The head-butting between SRC and Zifa has attracted the interest of world football governing body Fifa with the country now at risk of a ban from global football for governmental interference.
The world football governing body last week wrote to the SRC demanding an explanation for their drastic decision to suspend the board.
Fifa does not tolerate government interference in the affairs of its member associations, and has previously warned Mlotshwa of meddling in the affairs of Zifa.
In 2019, Mlotshwa wrote to Fifa advising them of his intention to appoint a normalisation committee for Zifa over allegations of financial mismanagement, but was left with an egg on his face after he was told in no uncertain terms to keep his hands off the association.
At the time, Fifa said an independent audit on Zifa accounts had picked up no wrongdoing and any action taken by SRC to intervene would be seen as government interference which would result in Zimbabwe being banned.
“Should the minister of Youth, Sport, Arts & Recreation of Zimbabwe, upon recommendation of the Sports and Recreation Committee, decide to appoint an interim committee to administer the affairs of Zifa, it would be considered undue influence in the sense of the Fifa statutes,” Fifa wrote, adding: “Consequently, the matter would be presented to the relevant Fifa bodies for consideration and possible action, which may include the suspension of Zimbabwe.”