Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
WILFRED MUKUNA, the ZIFA Referees boss, whose committee pronounced a summary suspension of Bongani Gadzikwa for a howler at Rufaro on Sunday, suffered a similar fate during his days as a referee when he was suspended for six weeks in 1998 for failing to properly execute his duties.
Mukuna has been breathing fire since Gadzikwa’s controversial decision to rule that Highlanders’ Edmore Muzanenhamo was offside when he volleyed home what appeared a superb equaliser, declaring live on national television on Monday night that the gloves were now off in their treatment of errant match officials.
Speaking on ZTV’s weekly football magazine programme, Game Plan, the ZIFA Referees Committee vice chairman dismissed suggestions, especially by the show’s anchor Charles Mabika, that Gadzikwa could have made a horrible error of judgment on Sunday.
The decision to suspend Gadzikwa, said Mukuna, was reached by 9am on Monday, about 16 hours after the end of an epic high-scoring showdown between Dynamos and Highlanders, which the Glamour Boys won 3-2.
Mukuna said while in the past the ZIFA Referees Committee had conducted their affairs privately, they would now name and shame those referees who would be found wanting and Gadzikwa, in the wake of his performance on Sunday, was just one of those who would be sanctioned.
He even suggested that there was a possibility of “match manipulation,” in the way referees were being caught off-side in the discharge of their duties.
Mukuna said his committee had launched investigations into several cases related to questionable match officiating this season, including Gadzikwa’s decision to rule that Muzanenhamo was offside in that defining moment at Rufaro on Sunday, and their findings will be made public.
He appeared to accuse some club officials and referees of colluding to pollute the game and said their intelligence had helped the ZIFA Referees Committee to unearth an unholy link that was compromising Fair Play in the domestic Premiership and Division One leagues.
Mukuna was also brutally critical of the standards of the referees in the country today and found himself at pains to justify why Norman Matemera could be appointed to handle the big game just two years after he was at the centre of the controversy that erupted in a similar fixture at the same stadium.
But while Mukuna suggested there was more to Gadzikwa’s howler on Sunday, than just a monumental refereeing blunder, which called for swift sanctions to be imposed on the match official, the ZIFA Referees Committee boss found himself under fire, in March 1998, and was suspended after failing to properly discharge his duties.
His suspension came about three weeks after a match, which ironically, just like Sunday’s game, also featured Dynamos and Highlanders at Rufaro.
Bosso arrived at Rufaro carrying a 3-1 first leg lead from Barbourfields in the Cosmos Cellular Challenge Trophy final, and a lively first half saw the two giants go to the break with the second leg score level 1-1 after goals by Francis Kanda for Dynamos and Thulani Ncube for Highlanders.
Eight minutes into the second half, Bosso appeared to have ended the game as a contest when Melusi Ndebele put them 2-1 ahead, and 5-3 on aggregate, but Kaitano Tembo scored just after the hour mark, to level the second leg scores once again, and give DeMbare a glimmer of hope.
Then came the controversial moment in the 82nd minute when Dynamos won a corner but before it could be taken, the Harare giants fans started pelting the Highlanders’ goal area with missiles, forcing Bosso players to run for cover.
DeMbare took their corner, even though the opposition had left their goal area, and Lloyd Mutasa stabbed the ball into an empty net and Mukuna pointed to the spot, giving the Glamour Boys a 3-2 lead on the afternoon.
Highlanders protested against the decision to award the goal and their players walked off the pitch, forcing a five-minute stoppage to the game, before team manager Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda intervened and ordered his men back on the field to continue with the battle.
Ten minutes into time added on, Kelvin Mushangazhike made it 4-2 in favour of Dynamos on the afternoon and 5-5 on aggregate but Bosso — despite falling at Rufaro that afternoon — held on to win the trophy on the away goals rule.
Mukuna, then a FIFA panel referee, was found by the reports compiled by the two assessors and a member of ZIFA Referees Committee who watched that match, to have acted negligently in letting the third goal scored by DeMbare to stand.
Larry Mortimer, the then ZIFA Referees Committee secretary, said Mukuna was found to have been “negligent and did not carry out his duties cautiously and properly”, during that ill-fated match, and he would not be appointed to handle any matches during the six weeks of his suspension.
Brighton Mudzamiri, who was one of the assistant referees during that ill-fated match, escaped with a reprimand.
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTION
Makomborero Mutimukulu, The Sunday Mail Sports Editor
“How many times have assistant referees got offside calls wrong? Plenty! It happened at the Copa America early this morning. Suspending Bongani Gadzikwa for his DeMbare v Bosso error is over the top and playing to the gallery. For Heaven’s sake it was one bad call and not a series. They say they are investigating, investigating what? Gadzikwa erred…Fact. But the way it’s being handled has emotions written all over it.
Don Makanyanga, Sports Journalist
Mukuna on Game Plan yesterday said this year it was not the first time that Gadzikwa has done it and it’s not his first suspension then my question is why allow him to officiate at a game of that magnitude if the (fellow) has been suspended before for getting wrong calls this year alone and for the Referees Committee to descend upon him alone is not fair when we have the controversial Matemera going to consult with his assistant when we know in actual fact that the centre official overrides the decision of his assistants if he felt that Bongani had made a wrong call.