A SHABBILY-DRESSED security guard, with a worn-out counter book in his hands and seated attentively by the ever-closed sliding black gate, welcomes one at Number 53 Livingstone Avenue in Harare — the official home of Zimbabwean football.
Inside the black gate, never mind the hassles one is exposed to by the security guard who does a thorough background check before allowing one in, the growing grass greets the eye as you step towards the reception area.
What catches the eye most is the missing curtains on some of the windows, the reason being they have been taken for laundry and one never bothers to ask whether the football association only has one set of curtains for the reception area.
Hard-hit by a spiralling debt estimated to be around $4 million that has culminated in endless attachment of the association’s property, the current state of affairs at Zifa House makes sad reading.
The long and protracted labour case between Zifa and its former employee Nicky Dhlamini, which the association lost at the Labour Court, has resulted in the association losing office furniture like desks, filing cabinets and computers as well as all national team kits and balls.
Dhlamini challenged her dismissal from the association in 2012, won the case against Zifa, who were ordered to pay her $88 000 as restitution, and she has since been attaching more property from the embattled association.
A visit to Zifa House during the week revealed some appalling working conditions the association’s employees are subjected to and projected an association whose daily operations are suffering immensely from the effects of the long-standing debts.
The place looks like a deserted farmhouse in serious need of touch-ups, everything is scattered and the employees, whom reports suggest have gone for almost a year without getting salaries, obliviously go about their business like they do not care.
When The Sunday Mail crew arrived at the association’s headquarters seeking to meet a Northern Region Soccer League administrator, they were made to wait in a filthy kitchen that seemingly doubles as an office for someone as there was a laptop switched on left on a ramshackle table.
An old hotplate, placed next to dirty plates, a heap of garbage, which include a big traditional drum (ngoma), a wheelbarrow and a stack of useless papers strewn in a passage disturb the eye before one of the employees warns us to “be careful when sitting because the chair is broken.”
Inside the Northern Region Soccer League office, where the commendably receptive administrator warmly welcomes us, one of the seats is supported by a crate of empty soft drink bottles and one can only feel for his enthusiasm as he narrates the Division’s programmes.
Soon, nature called and we found ourselves asking to use the rest rooms, which are found in the main wing.
Looking up in the passageway that leads to the ablution facilities that are close to the Technical Director’s office, big holes in the ceiling quickly catch the eye and so do heaps of “Tshangani” bags that can be seen through one of the offices.
There is no tissue paper in the toilet; the best that can be afforded is a half page of an old issue of a local newspaper and the people around seem not to care.
Outside, no one seems to be taking care of the yard and when time came for us to say goodbye to the receptionist, a light-skinned lady who seemed preoccupied with office orderly duties, our minds had already been gripped with the sorry state of affairs at Zifa House — the face of the country’s number one sport.
I do not remember the receptionist offering us seats, as much as I do not remember seeing somewhere comfortable where visitors could sit and wait before they are attended to.
Although access to the other main offices was difficult, a Zifa councillor who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that when there are more visitors at the headquarters, some are forced to sit on top of files due to the scarcity of proper seats.
Such is the state of affairs at the debt-ridden national football association that is desperate for Government support in the face of incessant attacks from the game’s key stakeholders.
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