By Petros Kausiyo
A storm is brewing in the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) after the association yesterday dismissed their chief executive Blessing Chiutare and director of rugby Nsikelelo “Sykes’’ Sibanda with the duo immediately declaring they would fight their sackings which they believe are unfair.
ZRU have since December 28 been advertising for the posts of national coach, chief executive and director of rugby.
While the position of Sables coach has been vacant for the last five months since the resignation of Cyprian Mandenge, Chiutare and Sibanda had until yesterday been executing their duties at the union.
Mandenge threw in the towel, following the Sables’ poor Africa Cup Group 1A campaign last year with the coach also citing a number of frustrations that made his discharge of duties difficult.
The Sables coach had already been without a coach by the time the new ZRU executive committee led by Aaron Jani was voted into office on December 2.
Just weeks after they assumed office, Jani’s leadership wielded the axe on Media and Commercial manager Raymond Gonte. Yesterday Jani moved a gear up and axed two key members of the union’s secretariat — chief executive Chiutare and director of rugby Sibanda.
The pair has, however, vowed to contest their sacking through the Labour Court arguing that the action amounted to “constructive dismissal”.
Jani who notified Chiutare and Sibanda of their sacking through letters sent to the pair then appointed the General Manager development Sifiso Made as the acting chief executive.
The ZRU boss, in dismissing the pair also made reference to the queries that had been raised by Chiutare and Sibanda on January 5 when they wrote to Jani seeking clarification on their fate given that their posts had been advertised.
Chiutare and Sibanda had cited unfair labour practices on the decision by the union to first request them to submit their CVs before flighting advertisements for their respective posts. Jani said both Chiutare and Sibanda had been working in acting capacities and were not substantive employees of the union.
The new ZRU boss blamed his predecessor Nyararai Sibanda for breaching corporate governance tenets when appointing the pair to be chief executive and director of rugby.
“I am in receipt of your letter dated 5th January 2018 which alleges unfair labour practices. As per our discussions in previous meetings as well as by the previous interim president the following issues were highlighted:
That the previous Executive flouted many Corporate Governance practices including the issue you have raised which is why they were removed.
The New Executive therefore is not in a position to condone their questionable practices by simply rubber stamping a process that was incomplete and questionable at best.
You have been afforded an opportunity to reapply for the post and I would urge you to do so.
The fact that you do not have an employment contract presents a very difficult proposition for the New Executive as we do not know what your terms of reference were or what your benefits are.
It is the New Executive understanding that the reason why a contract was not extended is because you were in an acting capacity. You failed to get the Old Executive to regularise your position and extend the contract to you in writing in a whole year as you have indicated.
“In light of the above, the Union is now head-hunting for a substantive chief executive officer which means your services in an acting capacity or otherwise are no longer required.
I am hereby terminating the arrangement you had with the old executive. You are therefore not required to report for duty as from 8th January 2018.
You will receive your January acting allowance as scheduled after a formal hand over of all union property and passwords. If you decide to apply for the post, you will be duly informed of the outcome once the exercise is completed,’’ Jani told Chiutare.
Sibanda’s notice of dismissal was terse and also seemed to point to a sour working relationship between the union’s boss and the acting director of rugby.
“It is with regret that having gone through your letter and noted your concerns as well as considered all our options, the presidium has decided that it is best that we part ways to enable us to start on a clean slate.
The situation as it stands is not ideal for both parties. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your service,” wrote Jani.
Chiutare said he had been taken aback by the decision of the new ZRU board to fire him despite the same union having endorsed a Sport and Recreation Commission report at their November 4 meeting at Prince Edward.
“SRC were specific in their recommendations that the ZRU should comply with the laws of Zimbabwe and in particular the provisions of the SRC Act and attendant regulations.
“SRC also indicated that the CEO should have a contractual agreement and terms of reference for clarity and avoidance of doubt.
In our case, the previous executive was suspended before they had completed the process of formalising our contracts and we could not have given ourselves contracts so there is nothing illegal in the way we were operating,” Chiutare said.
Sibanda also chipped in and said the fact that he had been in an acting capacity for nearly one-and-a-half years and produced results, not only showed that he was competent, but that the lengthy period he worked in an acting capacity had warranted that he be confirmed the substantive director of rugby. The Herald