By Leopold Munhende
SPORTS Minister Kirsty Coventry has been served with a letter of demand by ZIFA’s suspended board, to retract statements she told Parliament last week regarding government’s unaccounted US$2 million.
Coventry, who blamed suspended Felton Kamambo’s board for disappearance of the huge amount supposedly injected into ZIFA before its 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt, has been given five days to issue a public apology, failure of which she will be sued.
She told Parliament the five members were also on suspension for sexually abusing four female referees, a claim ZIFA Board Member Finance Philemon Machana described as frivolous, fake and misleading.
“For clarity, the reasons that the Sports and Recreation Committee (SRC) stepped in and suspended the board were three; the first was that government had given ZIFA about US$2 million that has never been accounted for,” said Coventry in Parliament.
“Four referees have come forward and given their statements to police and they have been investigated. Three of those members (perpetrators) were on the board. One of those members has already received a lifetime ban from FIFA from their own investigations that have been done over the last two months with a SF25,000 fine.”
Speaking to journalists Monday suspended Machana disputed the sexual harassment claims and argued neither FIFA nor police had indicated they were facing those charges at any point.
He said no US$2 million was ever deposited into their account by government, either through the SRC or directly.
Machana shared bank statements that revealed only US$53,000 was deposited into ZIFA’s account by the SRC on June 19, 2019.
Breakdown of how it was used was also shared. The entirety of the US$53,000 paid group stage allowances to 32 members of Zimbabwe’s squad, including eight in its technical team.
Each of them was awarded a US$2,500 allowance.
“SRC confirmed through their forensic auditors on ZIFA affairs that only ZW$85,800 was paid to ZIFA by government and that all such was acquitted,” said Machana in reference to SRC’s forensic audit undertaken after their suspension.
“Even as they were desperate to find a needle in a haystack, in our absence, they admitted that only ZW$85,800 which is a conversion of the US dollars at the prevailing rate, was given to ZIFA but the minister is talking about US$2 million.
“The Minister spoke to Parliament under oath, by a sworn Minister, a sworn Member of Parliament (MP) where we believe that one must not be contemptuous and misrepresent facts.
“The assertion that three ZIFA board members were accused of sexual harassment of female referees and that one member has been found guilty while another was facing disciplinary processes by FIFA is false.
“The Minister knows this, the only person found on the rank side of FIFA ethics, not sexual harassment was a referee’s committee official, not as ZIFA member as falsely alleged by the Minister.
“To this day no ZIFA board member has been found guilty or to the best of our knowledge undergoing disciplinary processes with FIFA.
“We have formally written to the Speaker of Parliament, we believe we are duty bound, we chose as a citizenry to inform.
“The letter argues that the Minister misinformed, and we asked that he investigates the matter.
“We have written to the Minister asking her to do the honourable thing by retracting her statements for the pain she has caused. Failure to do so within five days will result in us serving her for proper legal procedures.”
The US$2 million in question was allegedly raised by a committee headed by Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe.
Former ZIFA Vice President and current Vungu MP Omega Sibanda is on record telling Parliament Kamambo and his board never misappropriated the money as they never received it.