The thief and the president

Should a man who attempted to steal 10 million dollars be allowed to stand for the Cosafa presidency?

By Samindra Kunti

On Saturday, Cosafa, the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations, will elect a new president to succeed Phillip Chiyangwa, a one-term chairman whose reign was as colourful as it was controversial, and, above all, instructive. Elected unopposed in 2016, Chiyangwa, a businessman and relative of the late dictator Robert Mugabe, rose to fame when he helped to dethrone Issa Hayatou and end the Cameroonian’s 29-year long, iron-fisted reign at the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

Chiyangwa bragged that Hayatou’s downfall was engineered at his birthday party, with Fifa president Gianni Infantino and current Caf president Patrice Motsepe as chief guests. He said: “I did this. The council for removing Hayatou was the one you saw at my birthday party. This victory was my own art, my particular artistry. I have totally silenced this guy.”

Instagram posts aside, Chiyangwa’s boasting and self-proclaimed status as a powerbroker didn’t last long. His power began to fade. In 2019, the year Mugabe passed away, Chiyangwa was banned for life as the president of Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) for “bringing Zimbabwean football into disrepute.” Zifa alleged Chiyangwa of "unilaterally submitting an incomplete bid document" to host that year's Cosafa Cup "without getting a government guarantee.”

Cosafa has always relied on government guarantees and financing from host nations to organise tournaments, even if it’s one of Africa’s most powerful regional ...

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