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Kirsty Coventry backs Mnangagwa's son-in law

by Staff reporter
27 Feb 2022 at 07:28hrs | Views
YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry has broken her silence on the impasse between the Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) and ZIFA, which resulted in FIFA suspending Zimbabwe from international football activities, with the Government backing the sport regulatory body's action.

FIFA suspended Zimbabwe along with Kenya, with the international football federation citing government interference in association football activities in both countries.

In their correspondence to ZIFA, FIFA then set some conditions for the lifting of the ban, chief among them that the SRC must rescind their November 16, 2021 decision to suspend Felton Kamambo's board.

The Commission have, however, rejected the call for a reinstatement of the ZIFA board.

Yesterday, the SRC received the full blessings of the government through Minister Coventry.

In a statement, the Minister also made a passionate plea to Zimbabweans to trust in the process that has been undertaken by the SRC, which she is confident will end the perennial problems that have been rocking football for several years.

The situation in domestic football has been deteriorating under Kamambo's watch in the last two years.

Coventry said she was aware of the mixed reactions that had greeted news that FIFA had suspended Zimbabwe.

"I know some of you are angry, some of you agree with the steps taken and some of you are in the middle.

"I also know that we have an unwavering love for all things football.

"We love how it brings us together; we see it through our communities, all ages playing; we love that it brings us hope and makes us proud,'' Coventry said.

She then gave the nation some food for thought on the ZIFA saga.

"However, has our football given us these things in the past few years? Has it made us proud?

"Has it brought us hope? Has it unified us?  Has it opened opportunities for our players and our youth to dream big and make successful careers?" Coventry asked.

The Minister gave an insight into the impasse between the SRC and ZIFA, highlighting the two-year process that they went through in the lead-up to the suspension of Kamambo's board.

"These are some of the questions I asked myself two years ago, when this ZIFA saga yet again plagued our country.

"The board in and out of court for different reasons, the continuous allegations of bribery and corruption, the new allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of power.

"When will this stop?"

"They (SRC) requested to engage with CAF and FIFA as the governing bodies of soccer for the continent and the globe.

"They did this knowing and respecting the constitutions of the two. In the series of communications, SRC gave a full briefing to both organs of the allegations, outstanding court cases, and frustrations and requested for some assistance on how best to move forward.

"After nearly two years of communication, we have seen no changeā€¦the board are still in and out of court fighting charges of corruption, bribery, and now new allegations and cases of sexual harassment and abuse of power.

"SRC then suspended the ZIFA board and secretary-general last year, with more communication with both bodies after the suspension.

"During these calls and emails, it became very clear of two points.

"Firstly, FIFA and CAF must uphold their constitutions and this for them is not negotiable.

"Also, SRC must do its job to protect and serve our athletes, and in doing that will not reinstate alleged sexual predators and individuals fighting legal court cases," she said.

With government working on finalising the Sport Integrity Bill, Coventry underpinned the need for good corporate governance and zero tolerance to corruption.

"A part of this bill will require all sporting bodies to uphold the integrity of the nation's sport," she said.

"What this means is that in any business, governing bodies, or even foundations and NGOs, members will be required to uphold the values and ethos of these bodies and at no point put them into disrepute.

"If a member does bring the organisation into reputational queries, the member is normally requested to step aside and deal with their issues before being readmitted.

"This is done to protect the organisation, to protect their stakeholders.

"So why I am talking about this now?

"Well, firstly this was never done in the case of the ZIFA management and board as they continuously went in and out of court and all the meantime run football.

"Why would we expect anything to change in their governance if there is nothing requiring them to change?

"Throughout these two years it became very clear that our responsibility is to protect our stakeholders, our main stakeholders are our sportspersons.

"If there are no athletes there are no federations, national, continental or international.

"When we received these allegations of sexual harassment and abuse last year and found out that nothing had been done to protect the women, it was the final straw that broke the camel's back.

"The SRC, with the full support of Government and the sports-loving public, chose to protect our athletes.

"We chose to stand up for what we believe will be better for our national game''.

Just like the SRC and even her Kenyan counterpart Amina Mohamed, Coventry reiterated that government was prepared for the consequences such as the FIFA ban, while addressing the ills in the country's flagship sport.

"While we knew that it might come at a cost, we were willing to take that risk because sometimes we have to fight for the voiceless, the vulnerable and the powerless.

"We will stand next to these strong brave women who have come forward, and stand next to our athletes and ensure they have the right opportunities to drive their sport forward," she said.

Coventry also advocated for some diplomacy and said SRC and FIFA still needed to find some common ground.

"We want to find a way forward with CAF and FIFA that allows for us as Zimbabwe to thrive as a football nation.

"I believe we can find a way, if it respects that FIFA and CAF uphold their own statutes while the SRC do their job to protect, serve our athletes and not reinstate alleged sexual predators and individuals fighting legal court cases.

"I do believe there is a way we can move forward and respect both these points," she said.

In Nairobi Mohamed, who suspended the Kenya Football Federation, yesterday demanded some respect from FIFA for her government's efforts to clean the East African country's game.

"The Caretaker Committee that I legally established and that is fully recognized by our laws, has been hard at work. They have organized matches between our team and Uganda, Rwanda and Egypt and paid allowances on time, and levelled the playing field between male and female referees and players.

"It needs to be celebrated. We expected FIFA to take notice of all the positive developments taking place, allow us to carry on with our legally prescribed mandate to put our own house in order and then work with us on normalisation and fresh elections.

"We instead learnt through the media of a suspension based on government interference.

"We will continue cleaning up, putting systems of accountability in place as well as a draft constitution that is fully aligned to the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the FIFA statute and to good order and globally recognized values,'' Mohamed said.

"We intend at the same time to engage FIFA as we have continued doing over the last three and a half months. We intend to keep it informed as we have done until now on the going cases, investigations and the actions that we are taking.

"We hope FIFA will reciprocate and keep Kenyans informed on actions they intend to take with respect to issues we have raised on suspected misappropriation of their resources,'' she said.

Source - The Sunday Mail
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