Sports leaders plunge into political battle as Zim goes to polls

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Robson Sharuko

Harare - When Zimbabweans cast their votes on Monday in the country’s harmonised elections, where the people will choose their first leader who is not former President Robert Mugabe in the era of Independence, a number of the nation’s high-profile sports leaders will be angling for posts in Parliament at the same polls.

ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa and Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani have staked their claims for posts in the next House of Assembly by running on a ticket of Zanu-PF, the party that has ruled this country since Independence in 1980.

Chiyangwa’s deputy in the ZIFA leadership, Omega Sibanda, has also thrown his name in the race and is battling for the Vungu constituency running on a Zanu-PF ticket.

Sports Minister, Kazembe Kazembe, will also be battling to keep his seat as the MP for Mazowe West in Mashonaland Central running on a Zanu-PF ticket.

Chiyangwa, the wealthy businessman who is also a Zanu-PF Central Committee member, is no stranger to the House of Assembly after serving as a Member of Parliament for Chinhoyi constituency where he represented the people of the capital of Mashonaland West province.

However, he has moved to Zvimba District where he is angling for the Zvimba South constituency and will battle against the sitting MP, Walter Chidhakwa, who was part of the contingent that was kicked out of Zanu-PF for their links with the so-called G40 faction of the party.

“First and foremost, Zvimba is my rural home and the people of that area deserve someone whom they can identify with as one of their own, to represent their interests and I believe that I am that person and that is why I am in this race,” Chiyangwa said.

“I have built a reputation in the last couple of years as someone who can move mountains and my record of what I have done in football, not only here in Zimbabwe, but also on the continent and in the world tells you that I can serve those who believe in me with distinction.

“It tells you that I never fail when I make a decision that I am going to serve my people and I am encouraged by the response that I have been getting from the people who will make a decision and everywhere we have been going, during the campaign, we have been receiving a lot of support.

“This is not about PC but about the people of my constituency who deserve a powerful voice, who require someone who can represent them, who need a leader who will be there for their interests, for the development of their area, and I believe that I am that person.”

Chiyangwa has been shaking football in Africa and is the president of the Council of Southern African Football Associations and was the campaign manager of Madagascar football leader Ahmad Ahmad when he brewed a shocker by beating long-serving Confederation of African Football boss, Issa Hayatou, in the battle for the leadership of African football.

Some have suggested that the domestic football leaders, who are vying for political office as MPs, would be violating the FIFA Code in the event they win their battle for political office on Monday and will have to step down from their positions in the game.

However, Danny Jordaan, the man who successfully organised the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, spent a year as the Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality between 2015 and 2016 after having been appointed into that position on a ticket of the ruling African National Congress of South Africa.

Jordaan, who is the South African Football Association boss, is a member of the ANC.

Ahmad, who is now the CAF president, was a member of the Madagascar Senate at the time he took over the leadership of football on the continent.

ZIFA vice-president Sibanda says his mission is to transform Vungu constituency.

“I have noted with concern that there are few vocational training centres in the constituency,” he said. “Once elected into office I am going to establish two VTCs in Somabhula and Maboleni areas so that local people can acquire different skills at those centres.

“Lower Gweru is a hub of football. There is a team called Lower Gweru United playing in Division Two. I am proud to be associated with that team. There are Area Zone leagues that have been set up by ZIFA and Lower Gweru is ably represented.

“There is also a Christian League which we want to be affiliated to ZIFA and that is already work in progress. All these programmes are meant to give a platform to local youth to showcase their talent and perhaps earn a living through that,” he said.

He will battle Chumu Mark (MDC-T), Dube Junior (PRC), Kona Leonard (ZIPP), Lunga Nimrod (MDC Alliance), Mpofu Ngqabutho (MRP), Ncube Fanuel (APA), Ndlovu Lawrence (Independent) and Ntonisani Maxwell (Zapu) for the right to be the Vungu MP.

Zimbabwe Cricket boss Mukuhlani is battling for the Mondoro-Ngezi seat and had to weather a storm during the primaries, which he won, as those who were opposed to his candidature claimed he was a member of the opposition MDC-T and had somehow ended up coming into the Zanu-PF tent.

“That is politics, it is never a game for the faint-hearted and people have a tendency of throwing around a lot of dirt because they believe that is the only way they can succeed,” said Mukuhlani.

“You have to be prepared for all that because that’s the way it is but I am glad that I was strong and remained true to my principles and my principals also knew that I was coming in good faith.

“The task now is to try and win the national poll and we are confident that will be done and the people of Mhondoro-Ngezi will have someone who can represent them well in parliament and I will also be there to ensure that issues related to our constituency are attended to.”

 

 

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