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Zifa corruption saga: Covid-19 grants also abused

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COMPELLING evidence has continued to emerge pointing to industrial-scale fraud at the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), involving influential bosses of the federation and their connections, before the axe was finally wielded on the officials last November.

ENOCK MUCHINJO

The NewsHawks two weeks ago exposed how nearly US$1 million of Fifa funds, given to Zifa as grants, was siphoned out of the Zimbabwean football governing body by senior members of the association in a dodgy equipment deal.

This week, this publication can report that Covid-19 relief funds distributed to some affiliates of Zifa did not reach the intended beneficiaries.

At the height of the pandemic, when all football activities were suspended, Zifa disbursed varying amounts of money to a cross section of its members, including the Premier Soccer League (PSL), to alleviate the hardships clubs were facing in the country during the hiatus.

While beneficiaries like the PSL were able to produce satisfactory statements, some like Beach Soccer Zimbabwe and the Futsal body did not account for the US$10 000 each of them got from Zifa, within the required first two-month period to this day.

After gaining access to accounting documents, The NewsHawks can reveal that the payments to both Beach Soccer and Futsal no longer appear in the affiliate bodies’ bank accounts.

“These funds were supposed to be distributed to Beach Soccer and Futsal clubs. None of the recognised clubs got paid,” said a well-placed source.

“Whenever the heads of these affiliates were asked by (Zifa) secretariat to acquit the funds, they replied dismissively and referred the staff to a certain powerful member of the Zifa executive (name provided).”

Interestingly, the chairperson of Beach Soccer Zimbabwe is a Zifa councilor, Marshall Jonga, who we reported a fortnight ago as the owner of Rollertag, a company that benefited nearly US$1 million from the Zimbabwean FA for the supply of football equipment which insiders say was in fact bought by Zifa officials from South Africa at far lesser cost.

Removed Zifa vice-president Philemon Machana, who was the association’s director of finance, authorised all payments to Rollertag alongside axed CEO Joseph Mamutse.

“The two, Beach Soccer Zimbabwe and Futsal, also received some of the equipment purchased under the questionable Rollertag deal,” added the source.

“It’s shocking how this equipment was abused. The heads of both Beach Soccer and Futsal are also allies of one of the sacked Zifa bosses and that is how the funds were siphoned out. The level of corruption and malfeasance is shocking and we wonder why this particular gentleman was allowed to abuse football like that.”

Meanwhile, Givemore Chidhakwa, another Zifa councillor, is the head of Futsal in the country.

Clubs in Harare and Bulawayo, which play in the Zifa Five-a-Side Harare and Southern Region Leagues, the biggest and most active in the country, confirm never having been paid.

Investigations by The NewsHawks show that Chidhakwa was also contracted by Zifa to provide Covid-19 testing for all national teams despite not being a medical practitioner. Neither does he operate a medical laboratory.

Chidhakwa, we can also reveal, is co-director with the owner Machana in a private company called Conduit Investments, which has previously been in the news for its dealings with Zifa.

Last year, four Zifa officials, including Machana, were hauled before the courts accused of shifting US$740 000 of Zifa funds to Conduit’s bank account in a bid to evade creditors. They were accused of obstructing the course of justice and were later acquitted last September.

Sources say the relationship between Zifa and Conduit is still under heavy scrutiny after a forensic audit was launched early this year following reports of theft and embezzlement in the association.

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