A SPECTACULAR fallout between ZIFA benefactor Wicknell Chivayo and some sections of the local media sparked dramatic events yesterday with the businessman announcing he was terminating his sponsorship for the Warriors and triggering a fierce cyberspace battle.
The country’s biggest weekly newspaper, The Sunday Mail, reported on Sunday that Warriors’ coach Callisto Pasuwa was “living in hell” after going for two months without being paid and the gaffer was being threatened with eviction from his lodgings in Greendale.
This drew an angry response from Chivayo, who pledged to take care of Pasuwa’s salary, and bought the gaffer the vehicle that he uses, as part of a package to create a conducive environment the businessman believes would inspire the coach to give his best shot in guiding the Warriors to the 2017 Nations Cup finals in Gabon.
Chivayo also sharply criticised the journalist who wrote the story, Ishemunyoro Chingwere, although The Sunday Mail Sports Editor, Makomborero Mutimukulu, immediately hit back at the young businessman.
“Yes, I have heard about the reaction to our story on the back page of yesterday’s edition of The Sunday Mail. The question I have been getting is: ‘How do you feel now that Sir Wicknell has ‘terminated’ his Warriors sponsorship,” Mutimukulu posted on his Facebook page.
“And, here is the answer to those who have asked, as well as those who will ask. Even if Chivayo was to hang himself soon after reading that story, we will be standing by it just like we are doing now.”
Pasuwa’s manager, Gibson Mahachi, said while they didn’t want to be dragged into the case, given that they only deal using official channels with ZIFA, he only wanted to make it clear that they didn’t have any issues with the association and Pasuwa “was never threatened with eviction where he stays”.
But representatives of sportswriters took offence with the tone of Chivayo’s statement, feeling that the young businessman had crossed the line in the way he attacked one of their colleagues for the story he penned for The Sunday Mail.
The Sports Journalists Association (Northern Region) secretary-general, Henry Mhara, issued a statement saying his organisation was not happy with the language used by Chivayo.
“The Sports Journalists Association (Northern Region) is alarmed, disturbed and disappointed by the unbridled, vicious and disrespectful verbal attack on one of our members, Ishemunyoro Chingwere, by the ZIFA benefactor Wicknell Chivayo over a story which appeared in the recent edition of The Sunday Mail,” said Mhara.
“As Spoja-N, a body which represents the interests and welfare of sports journalists, we take great exception when our members are insulted, threatened or harassed for doing their duties diligently.
“Chivayo’s diatribe was unwarranted and totally uncalled for given that he (Chivayo) virtually confirmed in his statement that the story was factual. As members of the Fourth Estate, journalists should not be intimidated, let alone verbally abused when doing their job.
“Wealth and power should not be used to suppress the freedom of expression as accorded in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. We demand Chivayo to give the profession the respect it deserves by apologising to the journalist concerned and the media at large.”
Chivayo claimed his name was being dragged in the mud when he had met his side of the deal and has spent over $600 000 on ZIFA business in the past four months.
He assured Pasuwa, whom he met recently and gave $3 000, that his salary would be paid for a year but said the other sponsorship package, including a $250 000 carrot for the Warriors to qualify for the 2017 Nations Cup finals, had been withdrawn.
“I was very disappointed to read this article yesterday in The Sunday Mail suggesting I have failed to honour my commitment to pay the coach’s salary,” Chivayo posted on his Facebook page.
With the greatest respect this foolish and overzealous reporter needs psychiatric attention. I run multi-million dollar businesses and I don’t work for ZIFA. So, if nothing was communicated to me, I’m not supposed to guess, speculate or conjecture.
“It must be noted ZIFA has no bank account and owes creditors US$6m. So many people have writs of execution to attach property or money identified as belonging to ZIFA.
“To ensure players get their money you have to be extremely circumspect and discreet otherwise the money will be intercepted and forfeited.
“My vision was simply to turn around football all in the interest of the nation. I had to reduce my holidays from one every two months to one every four months.
“From the US$1m I committed as sponsorship to date I have parted with US$478 000 and above that Pasuwa’’s car cost me US$69 000 (and Mighty Warriors coach Shadreck) Mlauzi’s US$41 000.
“Simple calculations show almost US$600 000 used in three months as opposed to the agreed three years. If I say I have given players US$72 000 and 28 phones you must know that’s nothing but the truth.
“My reputation in retrospect speaks for itself. Always remember I’m under no obligation whatsoever to support soccer.
“Pasuwa came to my office last week and I assured him I was unaware he wasn’t being paid but I insisted and showed him evidence of various payments I made on behalf of ZIFA not knowing the issue of his salary had not been taken care of.
“I gave him US$3000 for lunch and told him I would open an escrow account with BANCABC this week where I would subsequently deposit his salary for one year and he would earn monthly as stipulated by his contract.
“The basis of this article was to give an impression that I have failed to pay him or I have given ZIFA the money and they have not paid him.
“None of the above is correct.”
Chivayo appeared to suggest that Pasuwa was the source of the story but Mahachi said the Warriors’ coach was not the source of the article.
“It must further be noted that Pasuwa is not the only headache ZIFA has so for him to go to the press and start telling them about his daughter and his rental issues in Greendale before telling me or waiting for me to resolve the issue is gross disrespect,” Chivayo said on his Facebook page.
“Such behaviour displays an ungrateful person and is totally unacceptable in my world. He drives a brand new Toyota that I bought, a car that I see being driven only by executives.
“I can afford to pay him US$7 000 every day for the next 10 years and still not feel it. As soccer supporters, journalists must also all remember I’m doing something no Zimbabwean has ever done since independence so the least I expect is appreciation.
“To cut a long story short this officially marks the end of my sponsorship for the Warriors for 2016. It takes a lot of love to spend US$600 000 on people you don’t know or are even related to so you will all appreciate my reasons for reacting this way in the circumstances.
“I can’t tolerate ungrateful people and I will never take this type of rubbish in my life. It’s a different thing if I wasn’t paying their bills and giving them money immediately upon request.
“However, having said that as a gesture and as a level-headed person, I will go ahead and set up the escrow account today (yesterday) and make sure Pasuwa’s one year salary is secured . . . Other than that for now I will also give others a chance to support NATIONAL PRIDE . . . GO WARRIORS GO . . . ALL THE BEST TO AFCON.”
ZIFA vice president, Omega Sibanda, said they could not comment on issues that come up on social networks.
“It’s unfortunate he hasn’t spoken to us about that so I cannot respond to things that appear on Facebook or any other social networks,” he said.
“As you know my president (Philip Chiyangwa) is out of the country on private business and there are always channels that need to be followed.”