FIFA has banned the former secretary general of the Zimbabwe Football Association’s referees committee from participating in all football-related activities for five years after convicting him of sexually harassing three female officials.
Obert Zhoya has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs (£17,627) following an investigation by FIFA’s independent ethics committee. Her ban comes after an alleged victim told The Guardian that Zhoya had “humiliated, bullied and demeaned” her, claiming she had received a series of WhatsApp messages from him asking her to spend the night with him in a hotel.
“The independent Ethics Committee adjudication body has banned Mr. Obert Zhoya, former general secretary of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) referees committee, from all football-related activities for five years, after having found guilty of abusing his position to sexually harass three Zifa referees,” a FIFA statement said on Thursday.
“After a careful analysis of the written statements of the victims, as well as the various pieces of evidence collected during the investigations conducted by the investigating body, the adjudicating body was satisfied that Mr. Zhoya had violated art. 23 (Protection of physical and mental integrity), art. 25 (Abuse of office) and, as a corollary, art. 13 (General Duties) of the Code of Ethics.”
The sexual harassment allegations against Zhoya were first reported by local media in Zimbabwe in September 2020, but it was not until the alleged victims reported the allegations to the police, in December 2021, that the police launched a formal investigation. .
In November 2020, the accusations were sent to FIFA, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) and the Council of Southern African Football Associations. Joyce Cook, FIFA’s director of education and social responsibility, said that FIFA initially referred the allegations to Caf for three months because “it did not have the competence to investigate and prosecute such conduct.” An alleged victim wrote to Zifa expressing her concern that her complaints were not being taken seriously.
“I would like to go on record that he had been making these unwanted sexual advances since September 2019,” she wrote. “The accusations I make here are supported by evidence in the form of voice recordings of phone calls. Then I got the courage from the evidence I had, and I learned that I’m not the only one [who] was the target of this harassment.
“I have been to the Zifa [referees] panel since 2019, I am 30 years old. She expected to be treated with respect, not as a lady of the night. However, I ask you to look into the matter and possibly address the issue and in the process protect me and my fellow referees who are suffering in silence.”
Zhoya did not respond to an earlier Guardian request for comment.