Herentals win appeal, keep Premiership slot

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PREMIERSHIP side Herentals have successfully overturned the decision by the PSL disciplinary committee to find them guilty in a match-fixing saga, which has been dragging on since last year.

Oliver Chirenga, who was said to be Herentals team manager and accused of having been the middleman in the scam, also had his life ban from football quashed.

The Students, who were docked three points and slapped with a $300 000 fine after being found guilty of allegedly manipulating the result of their match against Black Rhinos last year, will now keep their place in the Premiership. Failure to overturn the judgment would have come at a huge cost for Herentals.

They would have dropped into Division One amid reports that ZIFA would also have punished them further by kicking them out of competitive football.

However, a four-member ZIFA Appeals Board, led by Harare lawyer Stead Kachere, a senior partner at Kachere and Guwuriro Legal Practitioners, yesterday quashed that conviction and spared Herentals both the axe and the imminent collapse of the football club.

They ruled that the PSL Disciplinary Committee appeared biased against Herentals, had denied the Students the right for legal representation and relied entirely on the evidence of former Rhinos team manager, Gift Kamuriwo, whose presentation could not be corroborated.

During the PSL Disciplinary Hearing, the ZIFA Appeals Board ruled, Herentals were turned into both the accused and prosecutors, throwing the entire process into a shambles.

‘‘In view of the above findings, the ZIFA Appeals Board hereby allows the appeal, in terms of Rule 7.9.3.1 of the ZIFA Rules and Regulations,’’ read the judgment released last night.

‘‘As a result, it is hereby ordered as follows:

The conviction of the Appellants (Herentals and Chirenga) made by the PSL Disciplinary Committee on the 8th of January 2020 be and is hereby set aside. As a result, the 1st Appellants (Herentals) and 2nd Appellants (Chirenga) are hereby found Not Guilty and Acquitted.
The 1st and 2nd Appellants are hereby ordered to pay wasted costs to the PSL Disciplinary Committee as per ZIFA Appeals Board ruling on 5 March 202, thereafter each party shall bear its own costs incurred by the partners to the appeal as from the 5th of March 2020.
The 1st and 2nd Appellants shall be responsible, jointly and severally, to pay additional appeal costs as per paragraph 31 of this ruling. ZIFA shall determine the amount with which the appeal proceeds exceeded the appeal feels paid by the Appellants and shall inform the Appellants.’’
The ZIFA Appeals Board said there were many flaws to the process when the case was heard by the PSL disciplinary committee and, given the gravity of the situation, which involved a cancer called match-fixing which should never be associated with football, it was a surprise the issue was fast-tracked.

‘‘The PSL disciplinary committee should have sought corroboration of Gift Kamuriwo’s evidence,’’ the judgment says. ‘‘On the issue of the money produced as evidence, it was just Kamuriwo’s word against the Appellants.

‘‘There were no witnesses called to corroborate Kamuriwo’s evidence, yet the disciplinary committee had found that his evidence was not truthful in every maternal respect.

‘‘There was no effort made to trace the money to the Appellants. Also, there was no effort made to trace the cellphone number which was alleged to have been used by the 2nd Appellant (Chirenga) to contact Gift Kamuriwo.

‘‘Even the witness, himself, failed to produce the print out of his cellphone to prove that the said number contacted him at the time he said he was contacted. Even the records from the Army Barracks to show that the 2nd Appellant entered 2 Brigade could have assisted.

‘‘They could have recorded a registration number of the vehicle he was driving. Such evidence aliuende would have helped to corroborate the single witness’ evidence considering the seriousness of the offence with which the Appellants were facing.

‘‘Match-fixing allegations should not be taken lightly when it comes to football matters. They ought to be investigated thoroughly and being the culprits to book.’’

The ZIFA Appeals Board ruled that both Herentals and Chirenga were not given a fair hearing. ‘‘The 1st and 2nd Appellants also argued that they were denied a fair hearing,’’ the judgment said.

‘‘Their constitutional right to a fair hearing was infringed in that they were informed by the PSL that they were not entitled to legal representation at the disciplinary hearing. The letter notifying the Appellants was submitted as evidence. In terms of Section 69 (4) of the Zimbabwe Constitution, ‘every person has a right, at their own expense, to choose and be represented by a legal practitioner before any court, tribunal or forum.’ It cannot be disputed that Appellants constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair hearing was denied.

‘‘To prove that the hearing was not fair, the 1st Appellant was not given a chance to cross-examine the witness who testified in its absence. On December 12, 2019, the 1st Appellant representative was excused because the disciplinary committee and PSL Prosecution was not convinced that he had the authority to represent the 1st Appellant.

‘‘The disciplinary committee proceeded to hear the evidence of Gift Kamuriwo in respect of the charges put to the 2nd Appellant. However, when the hearing resumed on 19 December, 2019, the 2ndAppellant was just asked to give his defence outline, after that, the case was closed.

‘‘Immediately, Gift Kamuriwo was called as an accused person. After testifying as an accused, the 1st Appellant, was turned into a Quasi Prosecutor for the PSL. Had it been that the 1st Appellant was represented by a legal practitioner, no doubt, such an anomaly would have been noted. This leaves no doubt that the Appellants were not afforded a fair hearing.’’

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