SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma speaks to the Vice President of the Zimbabwe Football Association, Ndumiso Gumede, on Question Time. Gumede led a probe into allegations of match fixing that has sucked in dozens of coaches, players, journalists and football officials. Former football commentator Ezra Sibanda joins the programme and adds his views to the biggest football scandal in Zimbabwean history.
Interview broadcast 13 July 2011
Lance Guma: Zimbabwean football has been rocked by what is now known as “Asiagate scandal” where players, coaches and journalists were paid huge bribes to cover up for the fact that the country’s national team, and at times a bogus one, was deliberately losing matches hosted in Asia.
A 162 page report compiled by a probe team led by Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) vice president Ndumiso Gumede has blown open the lid on the scandal. Mr. Gumede joins me on the progamme and so does former sports journalist and broadcaster Ezra Tshisa Sibanda. Mr. Gumede thank you for joining us.
Ndumiso Gumede: Good afternoon or good evening or good morning wherever your listeners are placed.
Guma: Starting point – tell us about this investigation first of all. What did you have to do?
Gumede: Well I think it’s only fair that I really try and start at the beginning and the beginning unfortunately involves our predecessors, that is Mr. (Cuthbert) Dube’s committee took over a problem which we were then forced to try and complete. Sometime before we came into power and that is March 2010, Zimbabwean teams were clandestinely sent to go and play games in the Far East and the Zimbabwe Sports and Recreation Commission got to know about these things and demanded that there be an explanation for those trips.
Unfortunately the explanations of our predecessors, that is the (Wellington) Nyatanga led board, were not good enough for the Sports Commission and the Sports Commission required a detailed report on the trips to the Far East. As fate would have it, when that letter came, a new committee had taken office and that’s how we got involved.
The long and short of it is that a number of teams were sent to the Far East – Thailand, Singapore and other areas like that to go and play games, which games were deliberately thrown because people wanted to make money out of those trips. That is the briefest explanation I can give to that situation.
Guma: Now we understand you offered immunity to those who gave testimonies and those who did not come forward are likely to face more trouble. Is that how you approached this?
Gumede: No, no, no, no, that is not true. Can I put the record straight? The brief of my committee was to investigate whether those trips actually did take place – one; two – whether any monies were taken out irregularly; three – whether those trips were ever sanctioned by either the Sports Commission or FIFA; four – whether the persons who were organising those trips are known.
Now there’s no way there where it says I must apportion blame and begin to say he who came to me must be reprieved. The situation is, it is our belief as the investigating committee that a lot of the players went there, not knowing that the games were fixed and we would recommend that the committee that is going to spell out what sanctions ought to be given out ought to look leniently to what those persons who may be deemed not to have known what is happening and we, as my committee have categorized the trips and one of three ways.
Those who went on one or two trips we’re considering that it’s quite likely they didn’t know what was happening. Those who went on more than two trips knew what was happening because they were deriving benefit from that. Then there were the organizers who were manipulating the whole system – those we think ought to have the full brunt of the football law, of the country’s law even if there is any component of their misdeeds which can be deemed to be criminal.
Guma: Let me bring in Ezra Tshisa Sibanda into this discussion. Ezra your first reaction when this story broke – what do you make of it?
Ezra Sibanda: Some of us knew already that there was something going on, especially when a team was sent to the Far East masquerading as the Zimbabwe national team whilst the team was called Monomatapa and it was clear from the videos that the team was Monomatapa although they were putting on Zimbabwe uniforms.
So we started suspecting that there was something going on but knowing the institution itself at that moment that it was run by corrupt individuals, and most of them, you remember very well, you know it very well, these are the political nominees who were posted to ZIFA, so we knew that there was something going on, most of us.
Guma: Sunday Chidzambwa has been quoted by Super Sport in South Africa as threatening to sue and he is saying this is just a fight between the old people in ZIFA and the new ones in ZIFA. Mr. Gumede, how do you respond to that?
Gumede: Well I have not seen Sunday Chidzambwa’s rebuttal but like I told you earlier on, my committee’s brief was merely to find out whether there were irregular trips to the East and I stand by my committee’s findings that yes there were irregular trips to the East and that Mr. Chidzambwa where refutes what is written in my report to whatever vehemence he’s got but the truth is that some of the people who went with him who have been truthful, whose conscience worries them, who have told us the truth, even including that Mr. Chidzambwa bought a car in Singapore with the proceeds that he irregularly got from one of those games.
Ezra: Yes on that note as well Lance, as far as I’m concerned, if a commission of enquiry has been set, you’ve got no legal obligation to sue that commission of enquiry because these are the people sent to get all the evidence gathered together as a commission of enquiry and produce their report. This is what the committee has done. I’m not trying to defend Mr. Gumede or whoever but as far as I am concerned, when a commission of enquiry is set, there’s no way you can say I’m going to sue that. Why – is it being guilty or somehow? I think a guilty conscience is causing Chidzambwa to say that.
Guma: Ezra, just as a fellow journalist, the role of fellow journalists who covered these trips – that’s Robson Sharuko and Hope Chizuzu what do you make of that because people are saying, as journalists they should have known what was happening and they also received money?
Ezra: Okay right, he is a respected sports journalist (Sharuko) but when you see that this is a chief executive of the Zimbabwe Football Association, telling you that you should act as if you are part of the delegate, you should act as if you are a ZIFA official, you should act as a manager of the team, you should act as a coach, surely if you agree to such barbarism Lance, that says a lot about you.
This is a guy who most people believed he was genuine, a sports editor and when seeing things like that, although he says he is not guilty, but the first thing, my question to him – why would you sit on the bench with the coaches? Why will you pretend to be a ZIFA official when you are not?
If you are a journalist here, someone has put you to sit on the stand so that you give balanced reporting since you travel with the team but this is a guy who came back and started writing good about a coach, a coach who has lost some games in there. Knowing Robson Sharuko definitely he was going to slaughter that coach but in this case, Robson Sharuko came back and praised that coach.
Guma: Mr. Gumede, your 162 page report – the findings have been copied to FIFA, CAF, the Sport and Recreation Commission, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the minister of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture. People are saying no-one has been arrested so far – why is that?
Gumede: Well I’m not an arresting officer. I’ve already told you my brief was to investigate whether there were irregular trips made to the East and my findings are that yes there were. Where people were paid ridiculous sums of money for losing games. So ask that question why no-one has been arrested to the arresting officers.
The police, because the police have got our report and it is up to them now to follow the people that were fingered and if there is any criminal component to my report, it is them who should follow that up and arrest them. I have no arresting powers. My duty was just to expose whether the trips did take place and whether there were ridiculous monies paid out. That was my brief.
Ezra: But Gumede, knowing football, and remember FIFA doesn’t want football to be involved with the police and all that, you who are doing the findings, one would have expected the Zimbabwe Football Association as the mother body to suspend all those players involved, to suspend all the coaches involved from all football activities until investigations are completed but your organisation let those people continue enjoying, continue playing football and there was nothing that was done.
I think Lance is not saying maybe arrest them like yesterday but they should have been suspended. It has happened all over the world when a player is involved in a scandal he gets suspended pending investigations.
Guma: Yes Mr. Gumede?
Gumede: I think that if you listened to Mr. Sepp Blatter’s contribution when he was here a week ago he said each country must follow its own laws. In Zimbabwe you don’t just suspend a person without giving the person an opportunity to air his views. It’s called natural justice.
So those people now that they have been fingered, it is up to them now to go and plead their cases. If there is anyone of them who think that he was unjustifiably fingered, he must go and explain to that committee. We can’t just act on things and reports without allowing each and everyone who was fingered there an opportunity to air their views.
Guma: Mr. Gumede, can we get you to react to Robson Sharuko’s article? I think it’s been published today where he is saying he is doubting the testimony given, saying he’s been alleged to have gone to trips where he never attended to. He’s saying the number of trips that he’s listed in your report as having attended or gone to, he didn’t go to most of those trips so if you could get that information wrong, what about the rest of the testimony given?
Gumede: I think that it is important for those people who have had access to my report, which report by the way, seems to have been leaked out before it was officially given out, that it was very difficult for my committee to investigate this as well as we would have liked because there were no records at ZIFA, there were no records at the Sports Commission.
We had to rely on archival material from the newspapers, rely on archival material from the civil aviation authority vis-à-vis the persons who were going through and rely also heavily on the people whose conscience is beginning to worry them and they are the ones who were telling us so-and-so went on such and such a trip, so-and-so went on such and such a trip.
From that information we gleaned Sharuko went on those trips that we have highlighted. May I also say there might be a problem here that Mr. Sharuko is saying he went on 14 or 15 trips; we are not worried about how many trips he went. Our brief was to say how many games did he benefit from, so he might have gone on one trip where four games were played. In our report it will show four benefits accrued to him.
Guma: Okay. Ezra?
Ezra: Yes I do understand, but I still stand by what I’ve said Lance, knowing very well how investigations should be conducted. If someone is let in to still operate in football, so that person might interfere with some evidence. In this case now Robson is turning around to say no I went on 14 trips, if the investigation was done while at least Robson or anybody else were suspended, Gumede’s committee could have got access to passports to just check on the journeys which were conducted through the Immigration and all that but now he can destroy the old passport, you wouldn’t even see the stamps because everything is out before those guys were suspended.
The footballers themselves they interfere with evidence, they say go and tell Gumede that we got this amount but what I am saying, if those guys were banned from football or suspended, maybe even with pay, then you are going to get all the evidence you wanted Mr. Gumede.
Guma: Yes if I may just pose one more question for Mr. Gumede – it’s astonishing that the former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya has been fingered as the alleged mastermind, we are told she might have got as much as 450 thousand US dollars from the proceeds of the Warriors trips and yet, Ezra, no arrest has been made, I suppose we can’t blame Mr. Gumede for that, but it’s astonishing that she hasn’t been arrested.
Ezra: Yes it is really astonishing and disappointing that a criminal is still walking free while involved in those scandals. What are they afraid of? Is this to do with politics Mr. Gumede or is it football?
Gumede: Well I think you guys are not quite au fait with what is happening in Zimbabwe. The situation is, as football people I have no jurisdiction to fire and hire people who are employed at the Herald, that is none of my business. Those people with whom I have jurisdiction over, we’ve already suspended our former chief executive officer, the programmes officer and another junior who was also at involved.
That we did but we did that on a question of misconduct regarding their work at ZIFA. With regards to the investigation they will have to go and plead their case to a committee where they can say out to that committee that as far as we’re concerned we didn’t do any wrong. I’ll give you a good example – if I was one of the players who went on one of these trips which were clandestinely arranged and only called up one day before departure.
I’d go there and say look at any time we are called by the Zimbabwe Football Association we don’t have to question whether that trip is legitimate or not so I went there unknowingly and when we got there I just found myself being paid a thousand dollars instead of the usual hundred dollars and in 2008, the situation in Zimbabwe was so bad that when you got any money from anywhere you just took it, you never questioned and I’m sure the investigating committee would listen to my case if I pleaded it that way, each person is going to be given an opportunity to rebut whatever evidence has been provided.
Ezra: Yes but when players are told we need to lose this game six-nil, surely you can’t tell me that somebody didn’t know what was happening?
Guma: This is the astonishing thing I suppose with this case that so many people were involved, technical staff, coaches, players, journalists and it was kept secret for this long. What was the turning point? How did this thing unravel in the end because it seems like everyone was quite united in this; they kept this information to themselves, they were very united. What was the turning point that blew this thing out of the water?
Gumede: That is where I started. I told you that the Sports and Recreation Commission demanded an explanation from our predecessor’s vis-à-vis the trips. Unfortunately before that committee could furnish the Sports and Recreation Commission with the requisite information, we had taken over so this matter did not arise with us it had already started before we came in.
Guma: Well we’ve clearly run out of time but well we can only say congratulations to Mr. Gumede for his sterling work and the committee which includes Elliot Kasu, Fungai Chihuri and Benedict Moyo for at least doing something about this and throwing it into the public domain to have it discussed.
We hope to get all the people involved on this programme also to get their side of the story. Many thanks to sports journalist Ezra Tshisa Sibanda and the vice president of the Zimbabwe Football Association Mr. Ndumiso Gumede who led this investigation. Thank you for joining me on the programme.
Ezra: Thank you very much and Mr. Gumede, may you continue cleaning football please, there are criminals working there.
Gumede: Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure to explain things to your listeners.
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