ZIMBABWE Football Association (Zifa) president, Philip Chiyangwa, has hit back at the Confederation of African Football (Caf) over accusations that the Harare businessman, who is Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) president, is trying to “destabilise the continental football mother body.” BY HENRY MHARA
Caf last week, through its secretary-general, Hicham El Amrani, wrote to Chiyangwa expressing their reservations over his decision to invite football leaders, including Fifa boss, Gianni Infantino, as well as football association (FA) presidents to Harare next week.
The letter arrived days after the Cosafa bloc resolved to back Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad in the race for the Caf presidency, where he is hoping to deny long-standing incumbent, Issa Hayatou taking his reign into a fourth decade, when Caf elections are held in Ethiopia on March 16.
The adamant Chiyangwa has written to Hayatou, telling the strongman that the gathering is simply a birthday bash, and will go ahead as scheduled.
“I acknowledge, with thanks, receipt of your letter on the above-captioned subject matter, dated February 11, 2017, written on the directive of the president of Caf, Issa Hayatou, seeking to receive further details on the planned gathering in Harare on February 24, 2017,” Chiyangwa wrote to Amrani in a letter dated February 14.
“I was taken aback, to say the least, by the tone of your letter and the clear insinuation that such an informal gathering of my family and friends, be they presidents of member associations on the African continent, would be considered, outrightly, as an attempt to destabilise Caf.
“The informal gathering styled as ‘Dr Philip Chiyangwa birthday and Cosafa presidency victory celebration’, is merely my belated birthday celebration, as I was born on February 3, 1959, and I also intend, on the same occasion, to celebrate my ascendancy to the Cosafa presidency. This, in my view, does not violate any football statutes. It is a personal matter. As for my birthday, my family and I do this yearly without fail. The largest composition of the audience is of my kith and kin, Zimbabwean society, who are largely my focus, as will be witnessed on the day.”
Chiyangwa described the proposed interaction in Harare as intended to promote friendly relations between national associations as stipulated in Caf statutes.
“If I were to convene a formal meeting, I am well aware that such meetings for Cosafa, Caf and Fifa are prescribed meetings, which must have an agenda, necessary notification requirements and quorum formalities, where resolutions can be validly passed. I accept that I have no power to convene a meeting in terms of both Caf and Fifa statutes, neither do I intend to do so. The event scheduled for February 24, by any stretch of the imagination, cannot be termed or considered a meeting. Cosafa is not obliged to seek the prior approval of Caf before holding such friendly sessions and interactions with fellow presidents outside of its zone. The only instance provided by Caf statutes for a zonal union to do that is in terms of article 14.2.b, wherein it is obliged to invite Caf to attend its general assembly meeting.
“My conduct and actions are strictly informed and influenced by provisions of all football statutes and at no point in time have I disregarded or attempted to disregard the authority of properly elected/appointed football bodies.
This gathering, therefore, by any stretch of the imagination, does not seek to undermine or destabilise Caf, rather it is meant to foster friendly relations between brotherly associations for the overall development of football on our continent.”
Chiyangwa concluded by demanding an apology from Caf.
“In the circumstances, considering the clear misapprehension of my noble intentions by Caf, an apology is warranted for the inconvenience caused by the allegations arising from your letter. Kindly convey my warmest regards to our dear president, Issa Hayatou. I wish to thank him for his letter, please let him be assured that we are always acting in compliance with Fifa and Caf statutes and key democratic principles, which form their basis.”
Infantino, who has already confirmed his visit to Zimbabwe, is believed to be against Hayatou’s re-election after the latter backed Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim al Khalifa during the Fifa presidential elections last year.
Chiyangwa has publicly stated that he is Ahmed’s campaign manager.
The decision to back Ahmed publicly is the first serious sign of dissent Hayatou has faced since becoming president in 1988, and he appears to be in panic mode.
In a desperate move to suppress the growing rebellion, Hayatou warned Chiyangwa against holding next week’s gathering, saying doing so would be unconstitutional and tantamount to undermining the continental body’s authority.