Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Coventry speaks on FIFA ban

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To my fellow Zimbabweans who love their football

I know some of you are angry, some of you agree with the steps taken and some of you are in the middle.

I also know, we have unwavering love for all things football. We love how it brings us together; we see it through out our communities, all ages playing; we love that it brings us hope and makes us proud.

Has our football given us these things in the past few years?

Has it made us proud?

Has it brought us Hope?

Has it unified us?

Has it opened opportunities for our players and our youth to dream big and make successful careers?

These are some of the questions I asked myself two years ago, when this ZIFA SAGA yet again plagued our Country. The Board in and out of court for different reasons, the continuous allegations of bribery and corruption, the new allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of power.

When will this stop?

When will we have true leaders in soccer, whose momentum is to drive our beloved sport forward? To develop opportunities for our young boys and girls to have the opportunity to share their talents with the world? When will we read headlines about the good that ZIFA is doing doing and not the bad that they are into?

How do we fix this?

How do we find common ground with CAF and FIFA?

How do we respect the sovereign laws of Zimbabwe while respecting the CAF and FIFA statutes?

This is what the SRC have been doing for the last two years. They requested to engage with CAF and FIFA as the governing bodies of soccer for the continent and Globe. They did this knowing and respecting the constitutions of the two. In the series of communications SRC gave a full briefing to both organs of the allegations, outstanding court cases and frustrations and requested for some assistance on how best to move forward.

The reason for this request, was simple; we LOVE FOOTBALL, we know the huge talent we have and want to give our players an opportunity to shine.

These communications have brought us to today;
1. After nearly two years of communication, we have seen no change; the board are still in and out of court fighting charges of corruption, bribery, and now new allegations and cases of
sexual harassment and abuse of power.

2. SRC suspended the ZIFA Board and Secretary General last year
3. More communication with both bodies after the suspension of the Board and Secretary General

4. Suspension of ZIFA from FIFA due to 3rd party “interference”.
So, what happened and where to next?
During these calls and emails, it became very clear of two points:
1. FIFA and CAF must uphold their constitutions and this for them is not negotiable;

2. SRC must to do its job to protect and serve our athletes and in doing that will not re-instate alleged sexual predators and individuals fighting legal court cases.

Part of our new ethos and what you will see in the Zimbabwe Sport Integrity Bill being formulated now, is reference made to Good Corporate Governance.

A part of this bill will require all sporting bodies to uphold the integrity of our nation’s sport. What does this mean?
Well, in any business or, governing bodies, or even foundations and NGOs members are required to uphold the values and ethos of these bodies and at no point put them into disrepute. If a member does bring the organisation into reputational queries the member is
normally requested to step aside and deal with their issues before readmitted. This is done to protect the organisation, to protect their stakeholders.

So why I am talking about this now?
Well, firstly this was never done in the case of ZIFA management and Board. They continuously go in and out of court and all the meantime run football. Why would we expect anything to change in their governance if there is nothing requiring them to change?

Throughout these two years it became very clear our responsibility is to protect our stakeholders, our main stakeholders are our sportspersons. If there are no athletes there are
no, federations, National, Continental or International. When we received these allegations of sexual harassment and abuse last year and found out that nothing had been done to protect
the women, it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. This is what lead to the suspension of the ZIFA Board and Secretary General.

This decision to suspend them, was not taken lightly, all repercussions were previewed at length, all crossroads were played out.

This was the SRC’S first crossroads. Were they going to stand up and protect the vulnerable or were they going to allow this chaos to continue in our beloved football?

SRC with the full support of Government and the sports-loving public, chose to protect our athletes. WE chose to stand up for what we believe will be better for our national game.

We knew that it might come at a cost, and we are willing to take that risk, because sometimes we have to fight for the voiceless, the vulnerable and the powerless.

We will stand next to these strong brave women who have come forward. We will stand next to
our athletes and ensure they have the right opportunities to drive their sport forward. We will do anything to ensure this sport we all so dearly love is protected and is taken to new heights.

We want to find a way forward with CAF and FIFA, that allows for us as Zimbabwe to thrive as I believe we can find a way, if it respects the two points I mentioned earlier
1. FIFA and CAF uphold their own statutes and
2. SRC must to do its job to protect and serve our athletes and in doing that will not re-instate alleged sexual predators and individuals fighting legal court cases.

I do believe there is a way we can move forward and respect both these points. It will take more communication with all stakeholders, it will take all National Football stakeholders coming together and choosing to protect their athletes and drive our football forward.

It will take us as a Nation, coming together, and demanding better for Football.

So my question to all of you is: which road will you take?

Will you stand next to us and push for what’s right, and ensure we fight for a better football?

Will you stand next to these brave young women and support them?

Will you help us to ensure football remains our heartbeat as a nation?

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