From left, Namibia Football Association Secretary General Barry Rukoro and Cosafa President Phillip Chiyangwa (file photo). By Otniel Hembapu
Windhoek — The Namibia Football Association (NFA) secretary general Barry Rukoro, who is accused of having manhandled Cosafa president Phillip Chiyangwa in South Africa on Friday, says NFA president Frans Mbidi's deeply infra dig habits of rumour-mongering and backstabbing triggered the altercation.
It was reported that Rukoro allegedly had a scuffle with Chiyangwa, who is also the head of the Zimbabwe Football Association, on the sidelines of the recent Cosafa annual general meeting in Johannesburg, where the two football administrators had a heated exchange of words.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Rukoro who was speaking from Nigeria where he is attending to official duties, denied any physical confrontation with Chiyangwa but said only a "heated exchange of words between two strong characters" took place in the hotel lobby.
According to Rukoro, Mbidi has for the past few months been on a personal mission aimed at getting rid of him as NFA secretary general – and to make sure his mission is fully accomplished, Mbidi has apparently been lobbying for the non-renewal of Rukoro's employment contract, which runs full circle end of March.
Said to have already won over the support of some NFA executive members, who partly agree that Rukoro's tenure as head of the NFA secretariat should not be prolonged, Rukoro claims Mbidi has now further extended his lobbying efforts to Cosafa levels – a move Rukoro claims is completely out of order as it is purely an internal NFA labour issue that has zero to do with Cosafa.
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"Mbidi has been gossiping and spreading lies about me and the entire NFA Exco at continental and subcontinental events. He (Mbidi) took a purely national matter to a subcontinental platform. The question is what does Cosafa have to do with what is purely an NFA labour issue? Apart from the fact that Mbidi went about gossiping and spreading lies about NFA internal affairs, Cosafa president Chiyangwa even went ahead to discuss this matter at a Cosafa Executive Committee meeting. That was completely out of order. Mbidi is going around telling people that he will not organise an NFA Exco meeting for fear that his letter to me may be reversed by the NFA Executive but he chose to seek support against me on the international fora. That is not only disrespecting the NFA Executive but also undermining the NFA and Namibia's ability to deal with our own issues," said Rukoro.
It is no secret that Mbidi and Rukoro have not been the best of associates, with Mbidi a few weeks ago publicly announcing that he will not renew Rukoro's employment contract once it ends, but forgetting that he first has to consult the NFA Executive, which holds all the powers to hire and fire an NFA secretary general.
Most NFA executive members have not pronounced themselves on Rukoro's employment contract issue, but have advised Mbidi to follow due process and respect all the protocols when dealing with the issue, as opposed to bypassing the NFA's decision-making structures to settle his personal scores.
"I was told by a Cosafa Exco member that Mbidi with the support of Chiyangwa wants to deal with me and the NFA Executive and that Chiyangwa was ready to assist Mbidi in that regard. All I did was to confirm with Chiyangwa if the version I heard is indeed true and how he is planning to deal with me and the NFA Executive in a matter that does not in any way affect Cosafa. He (Chiyangwa) confirmed to me that Mbidi is pumping him up with a lot of stories about me and the NFA Executive, which is apparently not supporting him (Mbidi) to get rid of me. My discussion with Chiyangwa was a little heated but no scuffle took place. It is easy to establish if indeed there was anything like a scuffle or not as our discussion took place at the centre of the hotel lobby at lunch. How come nobody saw a scuffle?" added Rukoro.
Also contacted for comment yesterday, a somewhat reluctant Mbidi was a bit hesitant to indulge in details pertaining to the reported Rukoro and Chiyangwa scuffle, saying he only heard about it from other people and was also later informed by Chiyangwa himself, but could not comment further on the issue.
Asked whether the NFA will take disciplinary action against Rukoro for bringing the name of the NFA into disrepute, that's if the allegations are proven true, Mbidi simply said: "We cannot react to hearsay. The moment an official charge/complaint is received, we shall then embark upon an appropriate path to address the matter."