Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
ZIFA have refused to work hand-in-hand with Cosafa ahead of the upcoming 2021 Caf elections where the majority of the member associations on the continent have backed incumbent president Ahmad Ahmad to run for a second term.
The Felton Kamambo-led executive was conspicuous by their absence when 46 of the continent’s 54 association presidents appended their signatures to a statement calling on the Malagasy football administrator to consider contesting again.
A simple majority is required to win the Caf presidential election. Zimbabwe are one of the eight African nations that did not put their name to the statement along with neighbours South Africa, Botswana, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
The endorsements were obtained via the continent’s regional groups that include Cosafa, Cecafa, West Africa Football Union, Central Africa and North Africa.
Cosafa president, Phillip Chiyangwa, who played a key part in Ahmad’s election victory in 2017, is again the campaign manager for Ahmad’s re-election bid in 2021.
Although the 60-year-old Ahmad is yet to formally announce his candidature, Chiyangwa has already hit the ground running in preparation for the elections.
The former Zifa president, who is currently locked up in frosty relations with his successor Kamambo, yesterday confirmed that he had not received the backing from his home association.
Kamambo yesterday said his association does not believe in group decisions. He also said Zifa have not made it a secret that they want continuity but will go solo with their vote.
“I think those are endorsements made through regional groupings like Cosafa, Cecafa, West Africa Football Union and so forth.
“As Zifa we do not believe in group decisions because sometimes the decisions are not real at all. Some just put forth their names just because they want to belong and come election day, they vote otherwise.
“But as Zifa we are a stable institution. Whatever decision that we make on who to vote for, we will stand by it.
“The other thing is that no candidate has come out in the open to say I am contesting for the Caf presidency. So far all those names that are being peddled around are still speculation. So it’s not like we are not decided on what we want.
“If Ahmad puts his name forward, we are ready to support him. It’s obvious that we want to see continuity. But like I said, we don’t put our support through groups. We will make an official announcement on ourselves.
“As Zifa we are happy with what we have seen so far during Ahmad’s campaign. I personally admire the reforms that he made at the Caf secretariat and in women’s football,” said Kamambo.
Chiyangwa, who was key to Ahmad’s election victory that dethroned long-time Caf president Issa Hayatou in 2017, is again going to be the campaign manager for the incumbent.
The Zimbabwean property mogul has predicted a huge victory for Ahmad.
Chiyangwa said after he had successfully lobbied the region, he has gone beyond canvasing for more support for Ahmad and has now secured the backing of 48 association presidents.
“Already he (Ahmad) has people that have asked him to run again for the Caf presidency. I can tell so far we have 48 of the 54 member associations and that means 48 votes for him.
“The Cosafa region that I lead has responded overwhelmingly to his candidature except for three that are Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, I think.
“The strategy was clear, we wrote to our affiliates to confirm their vote and those three had not responded by the set deadline so we just thought maybe we are not walking together.
“But we are hoping that they are still making up their minds and will come on board once they are clear on everything. We have got the votes and we will agitate for more between now and March,” said Chiyangwa.
The BBC reported at the weekend that a statement signed by the heads of all Africa’s six regions suggests that the 60-year-old Ahmad will have widespread backing should he opt to run again, even though he is the subject of an ongoing Fifa Ethics case.
The support comes despite Madagascar’s Ahmad, who took charge in 2017, having yet to formally announce his intention to stand in March’s elections.
The deadline to apply is November 12, with no formal bid having yet been submitted by any candidate.
Ahmad has previously said he would seek guidance from the continent’s football fraternity before deciding to run, saying he does the role out of ‘’collective motivation’’ not ‘’personal ambition’’.
But it seems he has already received the thumbs up from almost all the African national associations who issued a statement last week supporting his candidature.
“Today, we, Presidents of the six Councils of African Football Associations, supported by 46 presidents of our 54-member associations, call on President Ahmad to run for a second term in order to continue with his achievement.
“If he decides to do so, we will support him.”
“President Ahmad has brought new impetus to football in Africa,” the statement said.
“The reforms initiated on the first day of his mandate have built a demanding institution, strong, modern, rising each day a little more to international standards.
“The fundamental reorganisation of the institution has made the administration more efficient. Transparency – particularly financial – has become a major concern, which is improving every day.
“Caf is doing better, but the situation remains fragile. Transformations in the institution are bearing fruit, but reforms must continue and good practices take root. The culture of high standards must become a habit. This requires time, perseverance and vigilance that only stability can bring.”
“President Ahmad has already spoken of his desire to make football accessible to everyone, regardless of ethnic, economic, religious or gender differences,” the statement added.
Ahmad, from Madagascar, became Caf’s seventh president in March 2017 after he outfoxed long-serving Cameroonian, Hayatou.
However, he is likely to face challenge from former ally, Amaju Pinnick of Nigeria. Pinnick refused to rule himself out of the race, saying there were “a lot of things fundamentally wrong in Caf right now’’.
Ahmad’s critics would argue that his reign has been more dogged by controversy than reform.
He is the subject of a Fifa ethics investigation which could possibly derail his bid after former Secretary General Amr Fahmy made various allegations to football’s world governing body against the Malagasy – all of which Ahmad denies.
French anti-corruption authorities have also been interested by one of the allegations, which centres on a controversial deal with Tactical Steel, a little-known French gym manufacturer run by an old friend of Ahmad’s then attaché, which provided sportswear equipment to Caf in 2017 after an original deal with Puma – slightly smaller, but costing four times less – was cancelled.
Tactical Steel’s website highlights its role in both making and supplying gym – and not football – equipment
Fifa has yet to release information about the investigation but has sent auditors to Caf, with Pricewaterhouse Coopers – in a damning report that leaked in February – questioning missing funds amounting to over US$20million while also calling for further investigation into Ahmad’’s role in the Tactical Steel affair.
The Zurich body undertook the audit along with Caf during an unprecedented move in world football – having sent its own Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, to act as a “General Delegate for Africa’’ between August 2019 and February 2020 in a bid to improve football governance on the continent.
Ahmad has been credited with the creations of an expanded 24-team Nations Cup and a new Women’s Champions League, signing a landmark headquarters ruling with Egypt and recently providing US$300 000 to each member association to help fight the financial impact of coronavirus among his achievements.
The Caf elections take place in the Moroccan capital Rabat on March 12. Caf also released a timeline of events leading up to the elections. Interested individuals will be allowed to submit their candidature between September 11 and November 12.
On January 11, Caf are expected to communicate the names of the successful candidates to all the national associations ahead of the vote in March.