ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa was in his usual bullish mood yesterday ahead of a defining week for African football which will see football leaders from around the continent gather in Ethiopia for a series of meetings that will culminate in the general assembly and elections for new leadership on Thursday.
Chiyangwa, who is the ZIFA and COSAFA president, is expected to leave this afternoon to join football leaders from the other 56 nations that make up the continental football body in deliberations that could shape the future of the game.
The Harare property mogul has been in the global spotlight for his crusade in leading the challenge to oust incumbent CAF president Issa Hayatou, who has been on the throne for the last 29 years.
Hayatou faces a real threat to his hold on to power from a virtually unknown challenger in the form of Ahmad Ahmad from Madagascar.
Chiyangwa is Ahmad’s campaign manager.
“I want Zimbabwe and Southern Africa as whole to be optimistic about the changes that are about to happen on the African football scene.
“We started this fight and we have to end it on a high. Myself and several other African countries that have suffered under the current administration will definitely cast votes on Ahmad.
“Some had been fearful to stand up to this football dictatorship all these years. That’s cowardice and I do not belong to that school. I speak my mind, I speak for the voiceless. Nobody will silence me.
“Probably what I may ask for now are the prayers for the smooth departure of the emperor. This week it should happen,” said Chiyangwa.
Hayatou has been at the helm since 1988 and had built a little empire around loyalists who helped him maintain a grip on power over the years.
The Cameroonian was re-elected unopposed at the last CAF presidential elections in 2013 following a change of rules, which now stipulates that only executive committee members are eligible to stand, disqualified Ivorian Jacques Anouma.
Hayatou is now bidding for an unprecedented eighth term after another change of rules in 2015. CAF, two years ago, voted to change the statutes which previously stopped officials serving past the age of 70.
Hayatou is now 71.
He had previously stated this term would be his last until this change of regulations gave him another window to alter his stance.
Hayatou, the son of a sultan from the northern city of Garoua, represented Cameroon at basketball and middle-distance running.
He has been credited for lobbying for Africa’s first World Cup finals when South Africa hosted the finals in 2010 and for increasing AFCON tournament from eight participants to 16.
However, there have been allegations of corruption, unfairness, bias and lack of transparency among other vices during the Cameroonian’s long reign.
Ahmad, who is a member of the executive committee, will need at least 29 of the votes if all members cast their ballot.
CAF are also using the occasion to celebrate their 60th anniversary.
The events of the super-charged week will begin with the meeting of the CAF executive committee this morning at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa.
Ahmad has been guaranteed support from the majority of the COSAFA countries.
COSAFA has 14 countries that include Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
They are likely to be joined by other disgruntled members from other regions with president of the Nigeria Football Federation Amaju Pinnick already having come out in support of Ahmad.
The CECAFA region which has 11 members that include Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya have endorsed Hayatou but it is fragmented.
There have been dissenting voices like Djibouti who have decided to rebel against the regional leadership’s stance.
The Cameroonian is also expected to get considerable support from the North and West Africa blocs, where French and Arabic languages are dominant.
“This is not about languages or regions,” said Chiyangwa.
“Madagascar, where Ahmad comes from, their official language is French, but that’s not the issue.
“We are here to tackle a system that is becoming detrimental to African football. We are for progress,” said Chiyangwa. – Herald