Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Appeals Committee chairperson, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge, Lovemore Chikopa has resigned from his position citing lack of good governance and for being bombarded with ‘a barrage of insults’ from the country’s soccer governing body, with immediate effect.
Justice Chikopa who as head of FAM’s Appeals Committee ruled that Saturday’s elections be postponed to another date after the other two contenders, Wilkins Mijiga and Willy Yabwanya complained to the Appeals Committee that there was a contravention of FAM statues and that FAM disobeyed the electoral codes.
The embattled presidential aspirants Wilkins Mijiga, Willy Yabwanya-Phiri and Tiya Somba-Banda, who contested for the vice presidency, obtained an injunction from the High Court in Blantyre restraining FAM and its delegates from holding the polls but the injunction was later vacated.
The elections which were, however, a far cry from football’s popular spirit of fair play as they were nearly marred by controversy that almost stopped them from taking place saw the incumbent MacMillan Walter Nyamilandu carry the day as he retained his seat after dramatically edging out his challengers to a pulp.
In his resignation, through email which Nyasa Times has seen and has been copied to two of his committee members, Justice Chikopa says that he could not continue offering his services as head of FAM’s Appeals Committee amid a barrage of insults.
“It is obvious to my mind firstly that my understanding of good governance and the operations of the appeals committee is not the same as that which the FAM executive committee or most of its members have. Secondly that there are some in the FAM executive committee who do not understand that it is possible to hold divergent views without having to indulge in gratuitous insults,” reads the email of resignation in part.
Chikopa said it is impossible for him to continue offering his services as chair of FAM’s appeals committee in those circumstances.
“Please accept my immediate resignation from the committee,” said Chikopa tendering his resignation. “I have copied this communication to the other two members of the committee.”
In a dramatic turn of events, another committee member of the same Appeals Committee private practice lawyer Patrice Nkhono has also resigned saying FAM executive committee ignored his committee’s decision to defer the elections after it was ruled that FAM’s electoral codes were flouted.
“It is my understanding that the approach taken by FAM executive committee following the decision of the appeals committee on the elections last Saturday, was to ignore that decision and to proceed with the elections. Apparently, this was what compelled the appellants to seek judicial intervention,” reads Nkhono’s resignation email which was also copied to FAM’s Chief Executive and General Secretary Sugzo Nyirenda.
Nkhono further said in his resignation email that it is his view that such course of action represented repudiation by the FAM executive committee of the validity of the appeals committee of which he is a member.
“Although I have not heard the insults that my appeals committee chairman, Justice Chikopa, speaks of, I have not got the slightest doubt that such have been made. For me, however, the repudiation by FAM executive committee of the validity of the appeals committee represents a rejection of my membership on the appeals committee,” further reads the email.
Nkhono added explained he cannot continue with an organisation that does not respect its own statues, rules and regulations.
Said Nkhono: “I cannot in good conscience continue as though that repudiation meant nothing. I therefore join Justice Chikopa in tendering my resignation from the FAM appeals committee with immediate effect and request that this is brought to the attention of the executive committee.”
Meanwhile, Yabwanya and Mijiga are seeking redress from the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) for intervention in Switzerland over what they call flawed Saturday’s elections that re-elected the country longest serving president, MacMillan Walter Nyamilandu.
Mijiga, who alongside Yabwanya on Friday successfully sought FAM Appeals Committee’s intervention stopping the elections only for Blantyre High Court to vacate the injunction on Saturday, yesterday claimed to have written to FAM Electoral Committee chairperson, High court Judge, Dingiswayo Madise, withdrawing their candidatures from the race.
“We did not want to be part of a flawed electoral process. The appeals’ committee said the elections had to be suspended until the irregularities were sorted out. The whole process contravened the rule of soccer, which is about fair play,” he explained.
“We are going to take this matter to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) in Zurich. We cannot allow a leadership that breaks its own laws by not respecting the decision of its own Appeals Committee. We believe the decision of the Appeals Committee was final.”
Mijiga was referring to Article 12 of FAM Electoral Code Sub-section Four, which states that “the decision of the electoral appeal ismmittee are final and may not be monitored by any government organ.”
Yabwanya in a separate interview confirmed to Nyasa Times that he alongside Mijiga are seeking CAS’s intervention, adding, “If FAM upheld the decision of the Appeals Committee that I should stand, what is different now with the latest decision to postpone the elections?”
However, Article 68 of FAM’s statutes states that “CAS shall not, however, hear appeals on violations of the Laws of the Game, suspensions of up to four matches or up to three months, or decisions passed by an independent and duly constituted Arbitration Tribunal of FAM.
Mijiga and Yabwanya sought the Appeal Committee’s intervention in respect of Article 13 of the code that “the final list of candidates shall be sent to all affiliates of the FAM general assembly and, where necessary, to the relevant government bodies no less than 15 days before the elective FAM general assembly is held.”
The voters’ roll was only released on Thursday just two days before the elections instead of at least a fortnight prior to the polls as stipulated in the FAM’s election codes.
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