Sports Council bans athletics’ body’s president Godfrey Phiri and general secretary Chitembeya 

Malawi National Council of Sports has with immediate effect Monday, February 6 banned Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) president Godfrey Phiri and general secretary Frank Chitembeya “from taking part in, participating in and organizing any athletic events in the country”.

A statement from the country’s sports governing body, mandated by the Laws of Malawi, says the Council has already notified world, continental and regional athletics governance bodies “notifying them to cease and desist from dealing with these individuals”.

“As alluded, no institution in Malawi should deal or transact with the dissolved committee members on any business affairs concerning athletics,” says the statement, issued by Council’s public relations & communications officer, Edgar Ntulumbwa.

Frank Chitembeya (left)

“Anyone who disregards this notice does so at their own peril,” he said while emphasizing that Council has neither dissolved nor disaffiliated the AAM.

He indicated that a caretaker committee, led by Justice Kalembera, SC, “finalised the validation of the draft reviewed constitution in line with the Malawi National Council of Sports Act, Council Guidelines, and World Athletics Constitution, at a stakeholder conference held 2 weeks ago”.

“A timetable of events is being finalised that will lead to the adoption of the constitution and the holding of elections at various levels, including national executive committee,” said the notice, adding that all matters concerning athletics in the country to be addressed to the Council’s secretariat.

Godfrey Phiri

Sources within AAM has been complaining that the association’s leadership had overstayed and that they were completely ignoring  Sports Council, citing government interference as justification for their defiance.

Two years ago, AAM suspended Chitembeya on several grounds including abuse of office and a vote of no confidence in him that was passed by the body’s executive committee during a meeting held on March 13, 2021.

“The grounds of your suspension include; open defiance and blatant disregard to AAM working rules and regulations and its constitution,” the letter said — which ironically was signed by Godfrey Phiri as AAM president.

It also cited: “Working unilaterally without consulting the executive committee on critical issues affecting the corporate integrity of the association” and “usurping the role of technical committee on athletes selection to international events.”

Chitembeya was also accused of refusing to harmonise world athletics list of activities funded by the world body and was ordered to surrender all documents to the association’s president upon receiving the letter.

An internal audit report for 2017-18, exposed financial mismanagement at the athletics body in which about K50 million was unaccounted for.

In 2019, Chitembeya — who was also secretary general of Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) elected in 2020 — was involved in bizarre situation when he demanded a fee of R1,000 (about 50,000 then) to issue a clearance letter to enable Malawian athlete Imran Paya to race in South Africa’s Comrades Ultra Marathon scheduled for May that year.

Imran Paya, who is from Mbulumbudzi in Chiradzulu District but left for greener pastures in South Africa where he took up running as a sport, had been participating in the 90km Comrades Ultra Marathon since 2011 but registration regulations for 2019 event changed where all foreign athletes were expected to only take part if they are cleared by their home countries’ athletics board.

Upon contacting Chitembeya to ask for the clearance letter after submitting proof of his Malawian citizenship through copy of his particulars on his passport page and an honours list of his awards, Chitembeya informed Paya that his club was expected to pay the 1,000 rands.

This bewildered Paya who sought for more explanation from Sports Council asking on what basis the payment was taken from.

Paya then decided to inform this reporter of the bizarre request and when contacted for an explanation, former Sports Council Executive Secretary, George Jana said this was news to him as he had never encountered it.

Chitembeya still went on to contact the athlete’s club, by sending a clearance letter and an accompanying demand for the 1,000 rands. However, the letter of clearance he sent had a different name of Peter Chiwaya and not Imran Paya

When contacted then, Chitembeya was just adamant, stressing: “Have you ever seen a player being cleared free. You seem to be living in the past than present. Sports is a business where institutions/people invest a lot. Why do they need clearance?”

However, the club, RCS Gugulethu AC captain Nceba Xipu responded to Chitembeya to furnish them with an official request to include the association’s letterhead.

Xipu had wanted the official letter and letterhead in order to “forward to Athletics South Africa and get clarification whether this is standard practice to pay for athletes’ clearance”.

“As a club, we are not in the position to make the payment and will request the athlete involved to make the payment himself. We just need an official letter,” Xipu had said in the letter.

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