THE spectacular fallout between ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa and CAF boss Issa Hayatou deepened yesterday, with the Harare businessman demanding an apology from the Cameroonian strongman. Chiyangwa has become the first African football leader to demand an apology from Hayatou, who has ruled the game on the continent with an iron fist since 1988 and, clearly, the stage is now set for a brutal boardroom fight.
The property mogul is unhappy Hayatou made sensational allegations that he was leading a campaign to destabilise CAF. The Cameroonian torched a storm on Monday when he wrote to Chiyangwa, through CAF secretary-general Hicham El Amrani, warning the ZIFA president against inviting association presidents who are outside of the COSAFA region to his belated birthday party.
The bash, at which FIFA president Gianni Infantino will be the guest of honour, is also being used to celebrate Chiyangwa's ascendency to the COSAFA presidency on December 17 last year.
Hayatou suggests Chiyangwa, who is backing his challenger for the CAF leadership Ahmad Ahmad in elections set for next month, is trying to use unorthodox ways of campaigning for the Madagascar Football Federation boss.
Yesterday, Ahmad said he has the backing of the NFF President Amajuba Pinnick going into the CAF elections. Chiyangwa, in his five-page letter, told Hayatou, via his trusted lieutenant Amrani, there was nothing sinister in the gathering in Harare.
Crucially, the ZIFA boss demanded an apology from Hayatou for the strong insinuation which the CAF president's letter seemed to make that Chiyangwa was acting like a rebel without a cause.
"I acknowledge with thanks, receipt of your latter of 11 February, 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 said in his official response.
"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 or 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' (see copy of the invitation) in Harare scheduled for the 24th of February 2017, is merely my belated birthday celebration as I was born on the 3rd of February 1959 (see passport copy '2') 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 . . . 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, citing provisions of the CAF statutes, noted that COSAFA was not obliged to seek the continental body's approval to interact with other zonal groupings such as CECAFA or WAFU.
"COSAFA is not obliged to seek prior approval of CAF before holding such friendly sessions and interactions with fellow presidents outside of its zone," Chiyangwa's letter read. "The only instance provided by the 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.
"At all material times I have considered myself bound by football statutes, from the ZIFA statutes right up to the universally acclaimed FIFA statutes.
"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.
"My conduct does not violate either Article 2.3 or Article 14.2 of the CAF statutes, if anything it fulfils Article 2k of CAF statutes as read with Article 5.1 of FIFA statutes.
"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 the continent. In the circumstances, considering the clear misapprehension of my noble intentions by CAF, apology is warranted for the inconvenience caused by the allegations arising from your letter."
Chiyangwa also indicated that he would circulate Hayatou's letter and his subsequent response to all the concerned guests to ensure no party is misinformed.
"I shall take the liberty of circulating your letter and my reply thereof to all persons concerned by the contents therein for their information. Kindly convey my warmest regards to our dear president, Mr 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''.
Chiyangwa also made reference to Article 2k of the CAF statutes which states speaks on promotion of friendly relations between associations, zonal unions, clubs, officials and players which deals with promoting "friendly relations between national associations, zonal unions, clubs officials and players."
He argued that his February 24 bash was in fact acting in full compliance with provisions of the CAF statutes. "This is not only one of the fundamental objectives of CAF but also that of FIFA in terms of Article 5.1 of the FIFA statutes. The interaction in Harare on the date mentioned above is intended to promote and farther the very same objective.
"Secondly, Article 3 of the FIFA statutes is also committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and strives to promote the protection of these rights, including freedom of association of member associations and zonal unions for the development of and growth of the game on our continent.
"The explicit provision of Article 3 provides as follows . . . human rights, — FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights..
"The practice of discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin colour ethnic, national or social origin gender, language religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth birth or any other status is also strictly prohibited under Article 4 of the FIFA statutes,'' Chiyangwa wrote.
- the herald