By Robson Sharuko and Cloud Fusire
Premiership newboys Manica Diamonds have cracked the whip and suspended two executive committee members — Lazarus Muhoni and Lloyd Chinava— after the pair was sucked into a scam in which kickbacks were reportedly demanded from players.
Muhoni is a former Warriors star, and was one of the pioneer group to feature at the AFCON finals for the country in 2004 in Tunisia, while Chinava is a former manager of the Young Warriors.
The Herald exclusively revealed yesterday that the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, the parent company of Manica Diamonds, had launched investigations into allegations that two executive members could have been involved in illicit player transfer deals to enrich themselves.
The pair could also have been defrauding the Premiership club, and by extension, its sponsors in the process.
A committee — headed by the club’s founding chairman Newton Demba — was tasked by ZCDC chief executive Moris Mpofu to fully investigate reports related to questionable conduct by two of the Premiership newboys’ executive committee members.
The Mutare-based side have invested heavily in new players, since gaining promotion into the top-flight league, bringing in Marshall Mudehwe, Patson Jaure, Pritchard Mpelele, Jorum Muchambo, Ashley Reyners, Tatenda Chingondi, Stanley Ngara, Tafadzwa Dube, Benjamin Marere and Carlton Munzabwa.
However, disturbing reports emerged this week that Muhoni and Munawa, who has held administrative portfolios at various clubs in Mutare, could have allegedly abused their privileged positions at the club.
Reports suggested they were allegedly demanding paybacks from players for having helped them get contracts with the club.
Other reports claimed some of the signing-on fees could have been inflated by the officials to enable them to pocket the difference between what the players had demanded and what the club eventually paid.
A similar scam has already been unearthed at another Premiership side — ZPC Kariba — where the coach Godfrey Tamirepi and some executive committee members are now under investigation after some players unmasked the dirty deals which also involved a third party.
Yesterday, Manica Diamonds chairman Masimba Chihowa revealed they had suspended the duo.
“The club has acted swiftly by suspending Muhoni and Chinava pending investigations which have been launched,’’ said Chihowa.
“We are a club that doesn’t believe in corruption and we have a duty to ensure that we protect the image of those who are sponsoring us.
‘’Anyone who is corrupt does not have a position in our club and we will wait for the final report and take the appropriate action.”
ZCDC boss Mpofu, who has a zero tolerance on corruption, was forced to act after he received a report compiled by the club which suggested there could have been some questionable conduct by some of those in positions of trust to manage the club.
“We received a report from the club indicating there could have been allegations of improper conduct by some committee members of the team,” ZCDC spokesperson, Sugar Chagonda, told The Herald.
‘’We have to reiterate that, as a company, we have zero tolerance when it comes to corruption and any malcontents within our system, and that includes the people who are part of our football project, are at the wrong place and will be weeded out.
‘’This project was instituted to contribute significantly to the development of football, in general, in the country, and in Manicaland, in particular, because we felt that the game is a unifying force and it brings people of all tribes and races together in one sport.
‘’So far, this football project has done well and given the people of Mutare and Manicaland a reason to be proud of a team they can call their own and we won’t tolerate any conduct that brings this project and the name of the company into disrepute will never be tolerated and our actions will be swift and decisive.
“I can announce that a special committee has been given the mandate to go and establish what really happened, to get to the bottom of this case, and it will be headed by the founding chairman of the club, Dr Newton Demba, and these are serious individuals who will make sure everything is brought to order.’’
Muhoni, however, argued that the EcoCash transactions between the players and him were for different businesses and not paybacks for his role in their transfers.
Meanwhile, ZIFA have warned ZPC Kariba to be transparent in their investigations of alleged corruption at the club.
ZIFA yesterday said they were still to be appraised about the allegations which appear to be widespread in local football.
The association’s communications manager Xolisani Gwesela yesterday said ZIFA were concerned by the silence from the clubs in the wake of such serious allegations.
Gwesela said ZIFA, as the custodians of local football, needed to be appraised of the developments and will soon be approaching the clubs to put to an end the cancerous development.
“As ZIFA we have zero tolerance to corruption and we are not going to just fold our hands and watch such serious allegations that might tarnish the future and reputation of our football as a country.
“We are there to monitor and protect the image of our football industry and we strongly condemn any form of corruption and bribery in our sporting industry.”
Gwesela urged ZPC Kariba to cooperate and keep the board well-informed of the investigations all the time.
“ZPC Kariba are one of the 18 clubs that constitute 60 of our seating members as ZIFA and they are obliged to report to us if any issues arise, especially of such nature.
“They should give us their preliminary report on how they are going to investigate themselves and later the final report of the investigations.
“But, at the moment, we haven’t yet received any report from these clubs that include ZPC Kariba and Manica Diamonds. We are just reading these matters in the newspapers.
“We do not want to be found wanting especially when the international governing board FIFA ask for an update or full report of the matter at any given time from us.
“So that’s why we are going to have our own investigations and we are positive that we will come up with a comprehensive report about these issues,” said Gwesela. The Herald