The Sunday Mail
AFTER an anxious five-month wait during which their Premiership fate hung by a thread, Harare side Herentals are heaving a huge sigh of relief after successfully appealing against the Premier Soccer League (PSL)’s decision to fine and dock three points from the team for match-fixing.
Herentals were accused of fixing their match against Black Rhinos on October 19 2019 at the National Sports Stadium, which they won 3-0.
The soldiers subsequently launched an internal investigation after suspecting the match had been rigged. Rhinos then found their team manger Gift Kamuriwo guilty of allegedly receiving US$300 from Herentals’ Oliver Chirenga to manipulate the outcome of the match in favour of the Students.
They also lodged a complaint with the PSL.
In the marathon hearings that ensued, the PSL’s disciplinary committee found Herentals, Chirenga and Kamuriwo guilty of contravening Order 31.1.3 and 31.2.2 of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League rules and regulations, respectively.
Herentals were fined $300 000 and the result of the match was nullified.
Chirenga was fined $20 000 and banned from football-related activities for a period of 10 years, while Kamuriwo was fined $10 000 and banned from participating in any football-related activity for three years from January 1 2020.
Late on Friday, all that changed after the ZIFA Appeals Board led by Stead Kachere overturned the PSL disciplinary committee’s ruling and acquitted Herentals.
“The main issue which was contentious was the standard of proof that should be used to prove such cases.
“The 1st and 2nd appellants argued that in cases of match-fixing and bribery, the standard of proof required is “comfortable satisfaction”.
“The standard has been defined as being greater than a mere balance of probability, but less than a proof beyond reasonable doubt. Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) jurisprudence also clearly established that to reach this comfortable satisfaction, a CAS panel should have in mind the seriousness of the allegation which is made.”
The ZIFA Appeals Board said the PSL disciplinary committee ought to have used the standard of proof that was advocated by CAS.
PSL, the appeals board also believes, should “have conducted its own investigation in order to corroborate the allegations made by one witness, which PSL relied on.”
“. . .in view of the above findings, the Zifa Appeals Board hereby allows the appeal in terms of Rule 22.214.171.124 of the Zimbabwe Football Association rules and regulations,” read the ruling.
Yesterday, the Herentals’ family was relieved.
The club’s secretary-general, Fainos Madhumbu, said: “We had four cases that were before the PSL, namely allegations of match-fixing against (Bulawayo) Chiefs and that of Rhinos, being late for the Chiefs game, and taking PSL to the courts.
“It has not been easy for us the past five months, but we are delighted with the ruling.”
From the outset, the clubs felt that the PSL’s decision was wrong, Madhumbu said.
But the process of clearing the club’s name came at a cost.
“It is very expensive to hire lawyers, not to mention the appeal fee, which was also huge, and the judgement itself has huge financial implications on our budget.
“As a club in Zimbabwe, investing in soccer does not have financial rewards, but rather it has more to do with passion,” added Madhumbu.
With the match-fixing case behind them, coach Kumbirai Mutiwekuziva could now use the delayed start to the season to intensify Herentals’ preparations for another dance with the Premiership.
The Students would also have to do more this year to improve their image, which has been battered by the damning allegations.