SRC vows to address sexual harassment

Shelly Guni

The Sports and Recreation Commission has vowed to continue pursuing all matters relating to sexual harassment of females in football.

This comes at the backdrop of the suspension of former secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Football Association’s (ZIFA) referees committee, Obert Zhoya on charges of intimidation and sexual harassment of three female referees.

Zhoya was handed a five-year suspension from all football-related activity by FIFA after being found guilty of the charges and was additionally penalized by the FIFA adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee with a hefty USD20, 000 fine.

The former referee violated articles 23 and 25 of the Code of Ethics, according to a statement from FIFA.

Zhoya, who oversaw the referees’ committee, has been forbidden from engaging in any football-related activity for a period of five years.

His ban comes at a time when the Sports and Recreation Commission is also fighting for justice of alleged sexually harassed female referees by the Felton Kamambo-led ZIFA Board. 

In a statement, SRC justified their decision to suspend the ZIFA board ,saying its inaction in investigating all allegations was amongst the reasons why the General Secretary, and thereafter, the Executive Committee were suspended by the SRC.

“Formal complaints were made by the victims to ZIFA, but absolutely no action was taken by the ZIFA Board to investigate these complaints either through internal mechanisms or through the police.

“For example, on 12th September, 2020, a female referee wrote to the ZIFA CEO, highlighting that a number of female referees were experiencing sexual harassment at the hands of ZIFA Referees Committee Secretary General, Obert Zhoya.

“On 14th September, the female referee wrote directly to the SRC repeating the allegations.

“On 10th November, 2020, the SRC wrote to ZIFA advising it of the complaints and directing ZIFA to investigate and submit a report by the end of that month concerning the sexual harassment allegations. ZIFA, through its General Secretary, Godfrey Mamutse, to whom the complaints were addressed to, ignored the SRC and its various reminders, the last being on 27th October, 2021.

“Allegations were made, on 12th September, 2020, by another local female referee, in respect of sexual advances made to her on 22nd March, 2019 by Bryton Malandule, the Chairman of the ZIFA Referees Committee. ZIFA did not act on these allegations,” says SRC.

The sport’s governing board said they will not rest until all perpetrators are brought to book.

“Obert Zhoya did not harass in isolation, these incidents are not peculiar to him alone, especially in football.

“He operated in an environment and culture that enabled him to confidently and blatantly prey on vulnerable women knowing full well that his deeds would be covered up by his colleagues within ZIFA.

“Those enablers must also be brought to account as they are accomplices.” Reads the statement.

The SRC paid tribute to the three witnesses for their bravery and resilience in the face of intense covert and overt intimidation from persons who did not want justice to prevail.

It said it would continue to pursue all matters relating to the sexual harassment of females as part of the clean-up of the ills afflicting the administration of football in Zimbabwe.

The government through the Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry also vowed to support victims of sexual harassment in getting full justice.

This follows a meeting between the minister and the three victims in which they told her of their plight.

“The victims gave evidence to the FIFA Ethics Committee on incidents of sexual harassment. The victims, with the assistance of the SRC, also proceeded to formalize their complaints with the Zimbabwe Republic Police as well as the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, a body established in terms of Section 245 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Gender “Commission, on the 24th August, 2022, wrote to the President of ZIFA, Gift Banda, as well as the Chairperson of the reconstituted Referees Committee giving them notice to attend a hearing on sexual harassment of female referees on 13th September, 2022,”.

The SRC urged the Zimbabwe Republic Police to expedite investigations on the cases of Zhoya and Malandula following the outcome of the Ethics Committee investigations since they already have dockets on allegations of sexual harassment against the two.

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