Herentals expulsion set aside

THE ZIFA Appeals Board has set aside the expulsion of Herentals from the Premier Soccer League saying it appeared to have been driven by a sense of animosity and underlying vendettas and has been set aside by the ZIFA Appeals Board.

Although the ZIFA Appeals Board upheld the PSL disciplinary committee’s decision to find the Harare club guilty of having violated the league’s statutes, by taking football matters to ordinary courts, the team’s expulsion from the league was quashed.

The ZIFA Appeals Board said in their judgment, released yesterday, that their decision to expel the Students left them “with a sense that there was some animosity, and some underlying vendetta, against the Appellant (Herentals) by the PSL disciplinary committee”.

It’s a shocking indictment of the top-flight league’s main judicial body, which is expected to be fair to their members, and throws the integrity of some of the judgments, which they have pronounced in the past, into question.

“Clearly, all the circumstances left the Appeals Board with a sense that there was some animosity and some underlying vendetta against the Appellant by the PSL disciplinary committee,’’ the judgment read.

“The Appellant pleaded guilty and had also publicly communicated that it had instructed its legal practitioner to withdraw the Application for Review from the High Court.

“The filing of the withdrawal was delayed by the Appellant’s legal practitioner due to their lawyer-client relation.

“The Appellant did not proceed to prosecute the Application For review to finality. The Appellant clearly showed remorse for having taken that dispute to the ordinary courts of law.

“The PSL disciplinary committee should also have taken all these mitigating circumstances of the Appellant into coming with an appropriate sentence.’’

“. . . in this case, the ZIFA Appeals Board was looking at the severity of the sentence. Why would the Appellant be sentenced to pay a huge fine and then, after paying that amount, they would be expelled from being a member of the PSL?

“This was clearly double punishment.’’

“The PSL disciplinary committee failed to place sufficient weight on the mitigating factors. The PSL disciplinary committee had a duty not to compromise the right of the offender, who pleaded guilty to leniency.

The ZIFA Appeals Board, led by lawyer Stead Kachere and whose three other members are Rodin Mzyece, Fadzai Wuta Mageza and Givemore Nyahuma, ruled that:

1) The conviction of the Appellant made by the PSL disciplinary committee on March 24, 2020, for contravening Article 53 of the PSL Statutes, is upheld.

2) The fine imposed by the PSL disciplinary committee upon the Appellant is hereby altered and it is hereby ordered that the Appellant shall pay a fine of $70 000 by the 31st of July 2020.

3) The expulsion of the Appellant from being a member of the Premier Soccer League is hereby set aside and the expulsion is suspended on condition that the Appellant should not, within a period of five years from the date of this judgment, commit the same offence of taking football disputes to the ordinary courts of law.

4) Since both parties succeeded in part, regarding the Appeal, therefore it was ordered that each party shall bear its own costs.

The ZIFA Appeals Board said Article 49 (4) of the Statues, which the respondents had heavily relied upon, was vague.

“Having gone through the respective parties’ arguments and the provisions of Article 49 (4) of the PSL statutes, it is the ZIFA Appeals Board’s view that the wording of Article 49 (4) of the PSL statutes is vague,’’ read the judgment.

“Clearly, it states that ‘these provisions are subject to the disciplinary committee powers of Congress and the Executive Committee with regards to suspension and expulsion of members.’

“The provisions being referred to are those to do with the disciplinary committee, However, what is lacking in the PSL statutes is what the Congress and the Emergency Committee will do when the disciplinary committee expels or suspends a member.

“There is no provision that gives Congress and the Emergency Committee powers to review, overturn or confirm the PSL disciplinary committee’s decision.

“The ZIFA Appeals Board will leave the PSL and its members to amend its statutes so that it is clear. On that issue, the ZIFA Appeals Board moves for an order of absolution from the instance.’’

Herentals’ appeal that others, like Dynamos and Highlanders, had in the past taken matters to the ordinary courts of law, and were not punished by the PSL, was thrown out by the ZIFA Appeals Board who ruled that it didn’t follow that if someone, or an entity, had not been punished for a similar offence, it meant that others could not face the rule of law.

“ZIFA Appeals Board agrees it’s not a defence to say others who committed a similar a similar offence were not charged or punished,’’ read the judgment.

Herentals also claimed there had been bias, among some members of the PSL disciplinary committee, who were also involved in their alleged match-fixing case which was dismissed by the ZIFA Appeals Board.

However, the ZIFA Appeals Board dismissed those claims.

Interestingly, the case also exposed the shortcomings of the discharge of justice through the domestic football judicial bodies as it was found out that there were different provisions in the ZIFA and PSL statutes when they are supposed never to be in conflict.

Where, there could be areas of disagreement, the ZIFA statutes will always take precedence.

While the late Edzai Kasinauyo was suspended, pending confirmation of his fate at Congress by ZIFA, the statutes which guide the PSL, according to the top-flight league, allow their disciplinary committee to suspend or expel parties from the league without reference to a superior body for confirmation.

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