Sweswe lawyers slam Zifa over Asiagate appeal

By Robson Sharuko South African lawyers representing Zimbabwe international footballer Thomas Sweswe have accused Zifa of delinquency and violating the player’s rights in the Asiagate appeal process that remains stalled more than one-and-a-half years after they paid fees for his case to be heard.

Edward, Nathan Sonnenbergs, who call themselves Africa’s largest law firm, claim Zifa has treated Sweswe with contempt by failing to provide a verdict of their Asiagate Appeals Committee eight months after the Bidvest Wits defender appeared before the panel.

Sweswe’s lawyers had given zifa until Monday this week, to provide them with the outcome of that hearing, or they would be forced to appeal for the intervention of world football governing body, fifa, advising them of the outstanding case.

The former Dynamos and Highlanders centre-back paid his US$6 000 appeal fees in November 2012, a few weeks after zifa announced their raft of sanctions in the Asiagate saga, but had to wait another nine months for the case to be heard.

Thomas Sweswe
Now, eight months down the line, he is yet to be served with a determination of the Appeals Committee.

Last Friday, the South African lawyers wrote to zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze and advised him they were sending the same letter to association president Cuthbert Dube, and all the board members, demanding a determination of the case to be provided by last Monday.

The lawyers said they were sending the letters to Dube and his board members because they were not certain that the football leadership has regularly been appraised by its secretariat of their efforts to get a determination of this case provided.

“We refer to the above and our email dated February 21, 2014. We have not received a response to the said email despite our making it clear that this matter has dragged on for far too long and our client is entitled to a ruling in this matter so that he can move on with his life,” the lawyers said in their letter.

“Your office has treated our client with contempt since the inception of this matter and the contempt intensified after the appeal was heard by the zifa Special Appeals Committee (‘the Committee’).

“This begs the question whether zifa was sincere when it convened the Committee or it was simply a window dressing exercise by zifa to create legitimacy for the abortive Ebrahim Commission that violated our client’s rights.

“Eight months have now passed since our client’s appeal was heard by the Committee. It is very difficult to believe that the Committee has not delivered its ruling on the matter. If indeed the Committee has not delivered its ruling to zifa, we have reasons to believe that zifa has caused the delay.”

The lawyers said they have heard that zifa, despite receipting US$6000 from Sweswe in appeals fees, were failing to pay the people who sat on their Appeals Committee and this has been the sticking point in the delivery of justice.

“We have heard widespread allegations of ZIFA having failed to pay the Committee,” the lawyers said in their letter.

“Surely if that’s the case, zifa cannot hide behind its delinquency and simply allege that the Committee is yet to deliver the ruling.

“Our client paid the exorbitant appeal fees and there can be no valid reason for zifa’s failure to pay the Committee members to obtain the ruling.

“Be that as it may, we do not intend to be dragged into a dispute between zifa and its creditors. Our client complied with the rules and formalities and he is entitled to a ruling.”

The lawyers claimed the delay in the delivery of the Appeals Committee ruling was deliberate by the zifa leadership.

“zifa has deliberately delayed finalising our client’s appeal with the hope that fifa would endorse the so-called global bans imposed by the Ebrahim Commission and our client will simply walk away,” the lawyers said.

“Far from being fair, zifa’s handling of this matter is a violation of our client’s rights. As we reiterated in our email of February 21, our client’s image has been tarnished by zifa for no reason.

“He has been labelled a cheat and a match-fixing mastermind when all that is not true. It is foolhardy to believe that he will not fight to clear his name.”

The SA lawyers said they did not understand how zifa wanted to get an endorsement of their sanctions on individuals, from fifa, when the internal processes had not been exhausted and matters before their Appeals Committee were still to be determined.

“We have now learnt that zifa has requested Fifa’s audience on the Asiagate matters after Fifa refused to endorse the procedure followed by the Ebrahim Commission and the so-called sanctions imposed on our client and many other individuals,” the lawyers said.

“We find it very strange and disingenuous for zifa to pursue fifa for the endorsement of the so-called sanctions when the zifa internal processes have not been finalised, at least in our client’s case.

“Our client’s appeal is still pending yet zifa is seeking a definitive order from fifa. Could it be that our client and many others — that appealed against the so-called sanctions — were taken for a ride by zifa by being granted appeal hearings simply to give the whole process some legitimacy?

“It appears zifa now intends to use the appeal hearings to deceive fifa that the affected individuals were given a right to be heard and their rights were respected.”

Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs gave the zifa board an ultimate, to deliver Sweswe’s Appeals Committee ruling by Monday, which they failed to do, or they would take their case to fifa.

“Please let us have a response to this letter and our email by close of business on Monday, March 17, 2014,” said the lawyers.

“Should we not receive a response by then, our instructions are to write to fifa informing fifa of the outstanding appeal and requesting fifa to postpone the meeting that we understand will be held between fifa and zifa on March 24, 2014, until our client’s appeal has been finalised.

“We are sending this letter to the President of zifa and other members of the Executive Committee simultaneously for their information as we have reasons to doubt that they are fully apprised of what is happening in this matter.”  
The Herald
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