By Eddie Chikamhi
ZIFA president, Felton Kamambo, is expected to appear in court in Harare tomorrow to answer charges of alleged bribery during the process which swept him to power two years ago.
Kamambo has always maintained his innocence in the bribery case and instead blamed the toxicity in football for the woes he has faced in his first year in office.
The case has been dragging on for months now and a number of ZIFA councillors have been interviewed by the police before a docket was prepared and sent to the National Prosecuting Authority.
Kamambo stands accused of masterminding a vote-buying scheme ahead of the elections for the ZIFA presidency where he dethroned the then leader of domestic football, Philip Chiyangwa, in a stunning upset.
The COSAFA boss withdrew from a possible second round, handing Kamambo victory, after the first round had failed to settle the contest.
Kamambo had won more votes in the first round but failed to secure enough backing, according to the ZIFA constitution, to win the contest without the need for a second round.
Kamambo got 35 votes to Chiyangwa’s 24.
With the then ZIFA vice-president, Omega Sibanda, also being comprehensively defeated by challenger, Gift Banda, it meant that the two leading figures in the administration of Zimbabwe football were both swept away by a tide in that poll.
Banda got 37 votes while Sibanda received 22 votes.
Banda, though, has been serving a suspension, for the past 20 months, after he was sanctioned by his fellow board members for, among other things, changing the national team coaches without the input of his fellow executive committee members.
The Bulawayo businessman’s repeated efforts, to have his suspension nullified, have been crippled by a number of moves by the ZIFA board to counter that.
Police national spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, yesterday told The Herald the police have since finalised their investigations, after allegations arose that there were some councillors who allegedly received questionable payments, in the countdown to the polls, to vote for certain candidates.
“I am not privy to the dates of the court appearances but what I can confirm is that police were investigating allegations of bribery and they submitted a docket to the National Prosecuting Authority,’’ said Nyathi.
“Since this case is now before the courts, I shall make no further comments.’’
Harare lawyer Chenai Gumiro, who is representing the ZIFA president, confirmed his client was recently served with summons to appear in court.
Gumiro, however, said he was still to get the State outline to establish who was the complainant, and who were the witnesses, in this matter.
“Yes, I can confirm there is a court case on August 25 (tomorrow). Allegations are that our client bribed ZIFA councillors to vote for him during the elections that were held sometime in 2018,’’ said Gumiro.
“But, we are yet to be furnished with the State papers to establish who the complainants are or which councillors are involved because they are the same people who are supposed to stand as witnesses.
“Under normal circumstances, we should expect the people who were allegedly bribed to come forward and testify that they were, indeed, bribed to vote for the accused person.
“We have been making efforts to get the state outline but without success.’’
Kamambo, or those who were working in his campaign team, are alleged to have transferred different amounts to the mobile money accounts of some ZIFA councillors, who make up the association’s electoral college, to vote for him during the elections.
Bribery charges were first brought up by his estranged election manager, Robert Matoka, earlier this year and the Police Commercial Crimes Unit were involved in the allegations.
One of the ZIFA councillors accused of receiving the hush money broke his silence in June and said the funds he received were not a bribe but a reimbursement for his expenses.
Hwange-based ZIFA Southern Region board member, Mehluli Thebe, told our sister newspaper, Chronicle, he received $300, through the Ecocash platform, from Matoka two weeks before the elections.
The money, he said, was for him to travel to Bulawayo to hear Kamambo speak about why he should be voted the ZIFA boss.
“Never would I have used my own money to come to Bulawayo to listen to a candidate,’’ said Thebe.
“I made that clear to him so he then sent someone, Robert, to Ecocash me $300 for transport and accommodation at a Bulawayo hotel.
“And, I came, listened to what he had to offer for Zimbabwean football (and) then the next day I went back to Hwange.
“It’s nonsensical for anyone to then suggest that I was bribed. In any event, who knows who I voted for?
“If there are people who got money to influence their choice, I am not one of them. I know people I voted for and, crucially, I also know that Kamambo was not the only person who gave us money to come for his campaign.
“Anyone who challenges that must come out in the open. I never received any bribe money from Kamambo, but I can only confirm receiving, $300 via Ecocash, from Robert which was for me to drive to Bulawayo and sleep over.
“I would never have used my own money to drive to Bulawayo simply to listen to someone campaigning, no.’’
Chiyangwa also raised the alarm last year, querying his loss, but the matter was dismissed but the NPA declined to lay charges against Kamambo, citing lack of evidence.
“The initial allegations came in January but they fell off. The courts declined to prosecute because there was no evidence. So there was no issue there. We wait to see how it goes on Tuesday,” said Gumiro. The Herald