Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter

ZIFA have turned to their usual defence shield, to avoid censure from the Sports and Recreation Commission, after they wrote to FIFA alleging interference in the administration of the domestic game.

The association’s chief executive, Joseph Mamutse, was suspended by the Sports Commission last week, pending investigations, into allegations of flouting the national Covid-19 health regulations.

The Sports Commission were not happy national teams were cleared to undertake foreign trips, without the necessary approval of the responsible Ministries of Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation and Health and Child Care.

The Sports Commission have ruled officials should be held accountable for the chaos which could have put athletes and officials at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

They also suspended their director-general, Prince Mupazviriho, over the bungling.

However, Mamutse, who feels he cannot be sanctioned by the SRC because of the FIFA clause that speaks against third party interference in the running of football by member associations, has written to the world football mother body.

Mamutse approached FIFA General-Secretary, Fatma Samoura, challenging the decision by the country’s supreme sports regulatory body.

The ZIFA chief executive also said he had not received official communication of his suspension by Sports Commission and had only learnt about the decision through a press release.

“The Zimbabwe Football Association has learnt, through media reports, of the suspension of ZIFA General-Secretary, Mr Joseph Mamutse, by the Sports and Recreation Commission,’’ wrote Mamutse.

“We want to advise that, as of now, we have not received any official communication from the SRC. Once we get official communication, we will advise FIFA.

“If the media statements circulating are true, we are of the firm belief that this constitutes interference by a third party in the administration of football in Zimbabwe.  “We believe that our statutes and judicial bodies have necessary provisions and capacity to deal with any intransigence committed by the General-Secretary if any.

“As an Association, we are carrying all the necessary investigations to establish whether or not our General-Secretary acted outside provisions of football statutes or unlawfully.

“Once we establish any wrong doing on the part of General-Secretary, appropriate action will be taken and we will notify you,” wrote Mamutse.

Earlier on, ZIFA had released a nine-page strong-worded statement, chastising the Sports Commission board, in a clear demonstration of the escalating public spat between the two bodies.

Apparently, the Sports Commission are not happy with the way in which applications for foreign football trips, involving the national teams, were being handled in this delicate period of Covid-19.

The Sports Commission have reiterated they will not back down since there is no room for lawlessness, in domestic sport, and tough decisions will be taken to stop sport from sliding into a dark pit.

The Sports Commission are a fully-constituted entity which have the authority, under Section 30 of the SRC Act, to deal with erring members following some clearly laid-down procedures.

Under the provisions, which deal with the disciplining of registered national associations, the Sports Commission have the right to “suspend all or any of its officers” or, in the worst case scenario, “strike the association from the register.”

This can happen in the event that the association “has failed to comply with any provision of this Act; or (c) has conducted itself in a manner which is contrary to the national interest.”

However, it has always proved to be a walk on thin ice, when dealing with the associations such as ZIFA, whose international mother bodies do not tolerate interference.

Some football commentators, who support the move by Sports Commission, have said the body should have recommended ZIFA to suspend Mamutse to pave way for the investigations, since he is directly employed by the association.

However, ZIFA’s direct attack on SRC chairman, Gerald Mlotshwa, in particular, in their hard-hitting response, appears to suggest that the national football governing body have been fighting a boardroom battle against the leader of domestic sport’s regulator.

ZIFA claim the SRC have been leading a campaign to allegedly destabilise the leadership of domestic football and replace them with a normalisation committee to run the sport in the country.

They even claim the SRC wanted members of the ZIFA board to be arrested, for contempt of court, as part of efforts to collapse the board.

“ZIFA is aware that the SRC has been to several police stations, several times, on the same matter as well as to ZACC (Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission) pushing an agenda that ZIFA board members were, at one time, in contempt of a court order involving one of its previous creditors,’’ the association’s board said in their statement.

“ZIFA wants to inform the nation that it never abused or ignored lawful court orders, more so the fact that a garnish order is never served from the person to which the garnish must be effected.

‘’Further, ZIFA never transacted in its accounts at any time when a valid court order was against it. This information has been made available to anyone who wants it. “It is surprising that some, who have it, have attempted to create fictitious nonexistent crimes.

“To the extent the SRC even wrote to FIFA that ZIFA was busy committing crimes like misappropriation of funds, carrying girlfriends to AFCON, violating national laws and were ignoring valid court orders. “ZIFA is aware of desperate attempts by the SRC, in particular its chairman, to try and arm twist this simple fact just to push for the arrest of board members.

“The end game we are told and are aware of is to have everyone within the Board in court to justify suspension of the Board.’’