Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president Phillip Chiyangwa has demanded an apology from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) after he was censured for inviting continental football leaders to Harare for his birthday party.
Caf last week accused Chiyangwa of “trying to destabilise" Africa’s football governing body after he also invited Fifa president Gianni Infantino to the event.
There is speculation that the Zifa chief wants to use the February 24 gathering to mobilise support for Madagascar’s football leader Ahmad Ahmad, who is seeking to challenge long-time Caf boss Issa Hayatou in elections set for March 16 in Ethiopia.
Chiyangwa, a nephew of President Robert Mugabe, has since written back to Caf, in a highly charged letter, vowing to go ahead with the fete.
“I acknowledge, with thanks, receipt of your letter… dated February 11, 2017, written on the directive of the president of Caf, Issa Hayatou, seeking further details on the planned gathering in Harare on February 24, 2017,” Chiyangwa wrote in the letter dated February 14.
“I was taken aback to say the least, by the tone of your letter and the clear insinuation that such an informal gathering of my family and friends, be they presidents of member associations or the African continent, would be considered, outrightly as an attempt to destabilise Caf,” he added.
He said he will be celebrating both his 58th birthday and his election as president of the Council of Southern Africa Football Association (Cosafa) late last year. Chiyangwa added that he organised his birthday celebrations every year “without fail.”
Ahmad was endorsed by Cosafa as a presidential candidate in the race for Africa’s football top job. Chiyangwa says he is Ahmad’s campaign manager.
“In the circumstances, considering the clear misapprehension of my noble intentions by Caf, an apology is warranted for the inconvenience caused by the allegations arising from your letter,” he wrote.
“Kindly convey my warmest regards to our dear president, Issa Hayatou. I wish to thank him for his letter, please let him be assured that we are always acting in compliance with Fifa and Caf statutes and key democratic principles which form their basis.”
Observers say Hayatou is uncomfortable with the possible Infantino’s presence at the Harare event because he did not back the Fifa boss after Africa endorsed Bahrain’s Sheikh Saman Bin Ebrahim in elections held last year in Zurich.
Hayatou has been at the helm of Caf since 1988.