THE masterminds of match-fixing scandal, football administrators and national team players embroiled in throwing games in Asia cannot be arrested and prosecuted as there is nothing in Zimbabwean law which brings “match-fixing under crime”, legal experts have said.
There are latches or loopholes to control the offence of match- fixing under the current Zimbabwe legal system. Strange as it would sound, match-fixing has not been defined in any of the country’s laws; therefore there is no law against it.
Allegations of match-fixing have swirled in the country in the past weeks but the offenders cannot be prosecuted under Zimbabwean law; the situation is made trickier by the fact that the offences were committed in Asia.
This deals a blow to the Zifa board who were contemplating preferring criminal charges against the fired former Zifa chief executive officer, Henrietta Rushwaya. Several national team players and football administrators, among them Zifa vice- president Kenny Marange and board members Solomon Mugavazi and Methembe Ndlovu, have also been implicated in match-fixing.
Alec Muchadehama one of the best legal brains in the country said there was “no such offence as match-fixing in Zimbabwe”.
“Our sport law is not yet developed and there is no such offence as match-fixing in Zimbabwe. The other problem is that the offence was committed outside the country. They could be charged for fraud under the Criminal Law (Codification Reform) Act but it has to be proved if there was actual prejudice or potential prejudice,” Muchadehama said.
Prominent lawyer, Jonathan Samukange said they had to be a “good drafter of the charges” to have perpetraters arrested and successfully prosecuted for match-fixing.
“They are always loopholes in the legal system but there has to be a good drafter of the charges for the case to stick. They might be charged for fraud under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act but they can also be discharged on technicalities,” Samukange said.
Trust Maanda, another prominent lawyer said, “I doubt so much that local courts could try somebody for an offence committed in Asia. They can only be charged in Malaysia.
“There is an element of dishonesty in that they prejudiced their employer (Zifa) by being paid to lose matches but then dishonesty is not an offence and only calls for disciplinary action.
“The employer might argue that it was prejudiced in that they paid for the air tickets for the national team to travel to Asia and put them in hotels and only for them to lose matches.
“Then there is also the issue of harmful effects; was it (match-fixing) felt in Zimbabwe?” Maanda said.
The Act defines fraud as (a) intending to deceive another person or realising that there is a risk or possibility of deceiving another;
(b) intending to cause another person to act upon mispresentation to his or her prejudice or realising that there is a real risk or possibility that another person may act upon mispresentation to his or her prejudice.
This prejudice is however difficult to prove with the law in Zimbabwe. This leaves the Zifa board to punish the offenders using the Fifa statutes and possibly face life bans if it can be proven that money did exchange hands in throwing away games.
In organised sports, match fixing, game-fixing, race-fixing, or sports-fixing occurs as a match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result, violating the rules of the game and often the law in other countries.
A lawyer who requested anonymity said the Zifa board could alter the charges to bribery.
Section 170 of the Criminal Law described bribery as:
(a) agent who obtains or agrees to obtain or solicits or agrees to accept himself or herself or any other person any gift or consideration as an inducement or reward.
(i) for doing or omitting to do or having done or omitted to do, any act in relation to his or her principal’s affairs or business.
The law says anyone found guilty of bribery and fraud should be slapped with a fine not exceeding level 14 or not exceeding three times the value of any consideration or given in the course of the crime, whichever is greater or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 20 years or both.
At this stage the Zifa board does not have an aorta of evidence save for some recorded statements from players. In other parts of the world such as Asia match-fixing is a criminal offence.
However what makes Zifa’s case against those named in the damning 36-page report by a three-man probe team led by Ndumiso Gumede is that there was no potential prejudice to the football association because the trips were funded by the organisers of the matches including paying hotel expenses and airfares.