Can Felton Kamambo concede for progress sake?

Recalled Zifa President, Felton Kamambo in happier days.

It feels like a stalemate!

When Felton Kamambo swept to power elbowing out business tycoon, Phillip Chiyangwa in a nail biting election, the football fraternity in Zimbabwe was divided. Some welcomed the change and since the development also coincided with the proclaimed new dispensation in the political world , the temptation to call this a new football dispensation was understandable. The defeated candidate gracefully conceded despite many in his camp who felt he was the best man for the job. ” Bhora kuna Fidza !” was their war cry but the Councillors who decide who occupies no 57 Livingstone Street decided to bet for a new horse. Kamambo was the beneficiary.

Kamambo’s tenure has been characterised by endless court cases with accusations of vote buying, misappropriation of Fifa funds and abuse of female referees by members of his executive.

It is fair to say that a lot has been written about these sins committed by Kamambo and company but as yet, there is no conviction which would have put the matter to bed. If crimes were committed why not deal with them expeditiously so that football does not suffer? The last thing football needs at the moment is a leader and his comrades who carry the weight of court cases on their shoulders. Football leadership needs a clear vision and a leader worrying about a possible jail term is not the best to steer the ship.

With Kamambo’s legal challenges mounting, the Sports and Recreation Council decided to move in by suspending the Kamambo led executive. This move was deemed to be political interference by the football world governing body Fifa. The instruction was simple, ” Restore the Zifa board or you will be suspended ” The SRC dug in and and inevitably , the suspension came into force.

The Zimbabwe national teams were barred from participation . This cost the Zimbabwe Warriors their place in the Afcon qualifiers currently underway. The fans were not happy and they saw a conspiracy by the SRC to avoid playing the matches because the country does not have a CAF approved stadium. Playing the matches would have meant that the Warriors had to play their home matches away in Zambia. This was going to be a humiliating admission of failure by those tasked to lead our football . National pride was at stake and by inviting the ban, the SRC had saved the Nation from living with this humiliation. Well it seems like a solid argument to make. How else can one explain what looked like a reckless decision by the SRC which led to the ban.

In the midst of all all this , Kamambo has been recalled with Gift Banda installed in his place. What will Fifa think of this ? Will they see it as a legitimate change or will they see it as an attempt to sanitise what they deem as the cardinal sin of government interference? Is it a matter of turning and turning in the widening gyre, whiel things continue to fall apart? And what does Kamambo think about his contested tenure in office? Should he insist on the principle of non interference as stipulated by Fifa or should he concede for the sake of peace?

I think Kamambo is within his rights to insist that he is the legitimate football leader despite the recall which was preceded by the SRC suspension. If Fifa still recognise him as the leader, then he can insist on finishing his term. But if he chooses to be magnanimous , can he concede so that peace can prevail? The ball in his court.

Allow me some literary indulgence and let me to make reference to my favourite African writer, Chinua Achebe.

In his classic the Arrow Of God , Achebe captured the life of a culturally rich society of Umuaro which is faced with a real existential challenge because the Chief Priest of Ulu, Ezeulu will not eat the sacred yam so that the new harvest season can commence.

It is an intriguing and gripping story, a story about ambition, revenge and the use of power. In a nutshell, the Chief priest of Ulu, Ezeulu finds himself away from his people detained by the white administrator Captain Winterbottom who wants him to be the warrant Chief, a political appointment to further the British approach to colonial administration of indirect rule. Ezeulu however refuses the offer and declares that he “will not be anyone’s Chief except Ulu !” Winterbottom is enraged and asks the guards to detain Ezeulu.

The detention of Ezeulu has far reaching consequences. The time he spends in detention means that he cannot eat the sacred yams which marks the beginning of each new month. The eating of the sacred yam is central to the proper functioning of the community since it guides the progress of the year. It also guides when the day of the New Yam Harvest will be announced, If all the yams are not eaten , the harvest season will not commence because Ulu the God Of Umuaro will not bless the harvest.

With the harvest stuck in the soil, and the Chief Priest refusing to partake of the holy yams, panic grips the community of Umuaro. The Elders of the community visit the Chief Priest to try and persuade him to just eat the yams so that the harvest can commence. Ezeulu is however adamant that he cannot do that . He tells the elders, ” What you are asking me to do cannot be done, these are not yams youcan eat because you are hungry, Elders of Umuaro you are asking me to eat death !”

The Elders agree that Ezeulu is right to stick to the cultural tenets which guide the eating of the sacred yams. They accept that the white man who detained Ezeulu and caused him to miss the eating of the yams was not there to solve the problem for them. Onenyi, one of the elders of the community presents his case, “We all know why the sacred yams are not finished. It was the white man’s fault. But he is not here now to breathe the air which he fouled. We cannot go to Okperi and ask him to come here and eat the yams that now stand between us and the harvest. Shall we then just sit and watch our harvest ruined , our wives and children die of hunger? No! I am not the Chief Priest of Ulu but i know Ulu does not want Umuaro to perish. We call him the saver. Therefore you must find a way Ezeulu, You must eat the yams and save the harvest. !”

Ezeulu is however adamant, he cannot eat the yams, to do so will be to ” eat death ” he argues.

Here then is the matter dear reader, on principle, Ezeulu is right to take the position he has taken. However, the community faces a real existential challenge. As the Chief Priest of Ulu, he is supposed to do what is necessary to save his community. If that means eating the sacred yams in one sitting and explaining to Ulu why he had to do it, then he is supposed to do it. But Ezeulu is a proud man, a man who will not be pushed to do things which he believes will go against the principles of his role as the Chief Priest of Ulu.

What happens next proves the validity of the proverb often used by this community, ” a disease which has never been seen before cannot be treated with everyday herbs”

The white missionary Mr. Goodcountry who is also trying to establish his church in Umuaro sees the crisis which is unfolding. He senses an opportunity and asks the families in Umuaro to bring their yams to his church for protection . He prays over the yams and with that blessing assures the families to go ahead with the harvest. ” The almighty God in heaven will protect you!” he tells them.

Suddenly the spiritual power dynamics shifts, Mr. Goodcountry becomes the new Spiritual authority, The Chief Priest of Ulu loses the power to influence the life in the Community. The harvest proceeds without his blessings , something which was very difficult for Ezeulu to take. His authority slips away from him due to the failure to heed the wisdom of his society, “a disease which has never been seen before cannot be treated with everyday herbs!” He should have compromised and found a ways to ensure the survival of his belief system.

Kamambo can go the way of Ezeulu, the Chief Priest Of Ulu. He can stand firm on the principle of non interference I am sure emissaries have been sent to him seeking to persuade him to concede and for progress sake allow football to continue.

Should he stick to the principle of non interference and declare, “No Kamambo , No Bhora” or should he compromise and for the sake of football be magnanimous?

To borrow from the above text, “should Kamambo eat the yams so the harvest can continue ? “

Indeed , we have a harvest to look after!. Football is our harvest. Players like Munetsi, Nakamba, Kadewere, Hadebe, Zemura .There are young players emerging on the domestic scene too. Think of Bill Antonio, Jayden Bakare, Thando Ngwenya and Callum Brown to mention a few. Must this harvest be left to rot in the soil?

Some will say the SRC must reinstate Kamambo and his board. I think they are too proud to do so.

What can i say then to comrade Kamambo? I would say, give football a chance,” eat the sacred yams.”and let the harvest go ahead!

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