Sticky end for soccer boss

Khan, a wealthy Harare businessman, was picked up by police on Monday after a magistrate issued a warrant of arrest for him on Friday when he was away on international duty in South Africa. The Zifa boss was the match commissioner in a Champions League tie between Soweto giants Orlando Pirates and Mbabane Swallows of Swaziland in Johannesburg on Saturday. Magistrate Jackie Munyonga sent Khan behind bars that same afternoon after she upheld a two-year jail term imposed on him for a crime he committed in 1992. Khan was convicted on April 29, 1992 in Harare on two counts of theft from a motor vehicle but the counts were subsequently treated as one for the purposes of sentence. He was sentenced to an effective 24 months in jail but he gave notice of appeal against both conviction and sentence. Munyonga ruled that Khan failed to file his appeal within a reasonable period and should therefore serve his jail term. The sight of Khan, one of the best dressed men in the capital, clad in torn prison garb when he appeared in a Harare court on Tuesday challenging the decision to jail him, hammered home the point of how the mighty have fallen. Khan was scheduled to step down from the Zifa chairmanship post on March 25. But as Zimbabwe football digested the shocking events leading to Khan’s arrest, there was a growing consensus that the Zifa chairmanship post was becoming a haunted position. “I think everyone has been shocked by the recent events and I hope that this will not have an effect on the Zifa elections which are on the horizon,” said Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association publicity secretary Charles “Mafripa” Dzvairo. “This is not a new case because it surfaced about two years ago when questions began to be asked as to whether Khan was eligible to keep holding office when he was convicted of this offence. “But it appeared to have died a natural death when Khan insisted that his conviction was set aside by his appeal. “We all thought that it would end up being a purely football matter but the events this week have been a total shock on everyone connected to Zimbabwe football. “I think what is shaping out of all this is that the Zifa chairmanship position is a haunted one.” Haunted or not haunted, the Zifa chairmanship position has had its fair share of controversy in recent years. And, Khan included, the last three Zifa chairmen have all had a brush with the law in recent times. Last year former Zifa chairman Leo Mugabe was arrested on allegations that he smuggled flour to Mozambique. Mugabe was charged alongside his wife Veronica and spent a night in police cells. The charges were later withdrawn after the police could not find enough evidence to tie the couple to the allegations of smuggling. Mugabe ran Zimbabwe football for the better part of the ’90s and into the new millennium. He was ousted four years ago in a controversial vote of no-confidence vote based on allegations of misappropriation of funds during his term of office. The allegations were later withdrawn after he fought a bitter battle to clear his name. His long-time deputy, Vincent Pamire, took over as acting chairman of Zifa. Pamire, who is also a wealthy businessman, was in charge of the association when the Warriors ended a 23-year wait to qualify for their maiden Nations Cup finals in 2003. Buoyed by this success, Pamire put his name forward to contest the Zifa elections and be elected the substantive chairman in November 2003. The election pitted him against Khan, then the chairman of the Premier Soccer League. Pamire lost another controversial vote 14-16 in a poll marred by the participation of an illegal delegate from the PSL management committee, which voted en-bloc, for Khan. No sooner had Pamire lost that election did charges rise that he had allegedly defrauded local steel giant Ziscosteel of about US$300 000 through a Ugandan-registered company of which he was a director. The case is still pending before the courts in this country. Not that there is anything new in the link between the courts and the Zifa chairmanship post. The late Nelson Chirwa, a long-serving chairman of Zifa, was forced to quit his post at the turn of the ’90s after revelations that he had been convicted of a criminal offence in his native Malawi. Now the focus is on Khan. For long accused by his detractors of running down Zimbabwe football, Khan was a defiant figure who survived a number of close calls in an attempt to boot him out of office. There were no fewer than four votes of no confidence in his leadership in the past two years and no fewer than four shadow Zifa boards were appointed to challenge his authority. He conceded in his report on the state of the game in this country that he spent most of his time in office fire-fighting instead of giving due consideration to such key areas like junior development. “The machinations of the anti-Fifa roadmap camp would not give the board time to focus on core business as they were always in courts with the board,” said Khan in his report. “The institutional politics was so bad that Zifa spent most of its energies fire-fighting.” He also took a swipe at the media blaming them for the problems besetting the game. “Negative media coverage by the Government controlled media, who week in and week out have never relented from their efforts to deface the game (is to blame). “Some of the media personnel are no better anti-Zimbabwe elements as evidenced by their previous suspensions and dismissals from the Government controlled media houses.” Khan’s Zifa board was condemned by President Mugabe last month when he told national television that he was concerned about the way football was being administered in this country. Mugabe said the poor way the game was being managed at national level was having a big impact on the Warriors who could not realise their full potential because of the pathetic administration. The Minister of Education, Sport and Culture Aeneas Chigwedere then revealed that he wanted to sack the Zifa board last year but stopped short after realising that such an action could affect the Warriors’ preparations for the Nations Cup finals in Egypt. Chigwedere questioned the wisdom of hiring Jonathan Mashingaidze as chief executive officer of Zifa. The Sports Commission also blasted Zifa for the amateurish manner that it handled the Warriors’ participation at the Nations Cup finals in Egypt. Ironically, both the Sports Commission and the parent ministry of sport were viewed as part an alliance that kept the Khan leadership in power. Disowned by his old colleagues, Khan found himself in isolation and a lame duck that had strayed into the shooting range. He tried to hit back, with a report that suggested his board was not the only one to blame for the mess in the administration of the game. Khan said the ministry and the Sports Commission were also culpable. Khan had already indicated that he was not standing for re-election at the Zifa polls set for next week. After the recent events, there are clearly more important things in his life now than football. And he has a lot of sympathisers. “I am one of the people who strongly opposed Khan’s leadership because I believed that it was authoritarian and did not give space for others to express their views when things were not going on very well,” said Harare businessman Paddington Japajapa. “You can call me a fierce critic of Khan’s Zifa board and that would be an excellent description of who I am. “But I feel sorry for what happened to him because, no matter how deep our differences are, you can never celebrate a position when one of your colleagues ends up in jail. I hope everything will work out for him.” Kahn’s board, which has surely collapsed, will be remembered for a number of things, notably for its success in taking the Warriors to their second straight Nations Cup finals. But the board is certainly going out with a bad reputation amid allegations of misuse of funds during the Nations Cup show in Egypt. Vice-chairman Wyatt Mpofu quit his post during the Nations Cup finals after he was accused of failing to properly account for US$74 000 that was under his direct supervision. Life has come full circle for the Zifa board. But for Rafik Khan all that matters in his life now is his freedom, instead of his football.

March 2006
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