Mtawali sues Malawi FA for defamation and winsThomas Kwenaite
A hasty decision taken by the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to fire former coach Ernest “Wire” Mtawali based on a humiliating if not downright ridiculous report compiled by the Technical Report has come back to haunt the Southern African country’s football federation.
In their decision not to renew Mtawali’s contract, the Technical Committee filed a damning report which was leaked to the Malawian media to the effect that Mtawali was a naïve, and ill-disciplined coach who ignored advice and, in the worst possible kind of character assassination, added that he publicly imbibed beer and shared cigarettes with his players!
In a report to Mtawali’s employers the – Football Association of Malawi – the technical committee that recommended him for the senior coaching post in the first place, charged that Mtawali worked in isolation and sidelined his assistant, adding he lacked both technical and managerial skills.
A clearly upset Mtawali, who gained legendary status in the SA Premier League as he bossed the Bloemfontein Celtic and later Mamelodi Sundowns midfield during the 1990s, expressed shock and disappointment at his former employers and the manner in which they dragged his good name into the mud.
“I knew when I took up the post that this job is results driven,” he said at the time. “I accepted that they (FAM) had the right to terminate my services if results were not satisfactory, but I did not expect them to assassinate my character in that fashion.”
Among other accusations against Mtalawi contained in the report was that he was a drunkard who borrowed money from players he had selected for national duty, which, in their view, caused friction between him and other players in the camp.
The report recommended to the Sports Council, his employers, to fire Mtalawi and replace him with his assistant, Burundian Nswaziromo Ramadhan, in an acting capacity, prior to an upcoming AFCON fixture against Swaziland in Blantyre.
Mtawali naturally refuted all charges leveled against him and claimed the people that compiled the report were frustrated because he did not listen to their advice of imposing players on him to select for the national team.
Mtawali filed a lawsuit against the FAM, Vice President James Mwenda who was head of the Technical Committee and claimed general damages emanating from broadcast and published articles in which Mwenda alleged that they fired Mtawali for “lack of planning and managerial skills and to some extend, discipline.”
Judge Joseph Chigona upheld Mtawali’s litigation and found both FAM and Mwenda guilty, ruling that he found them liable for defamation because there was enough proof that the published words did indeed disparaged Mtawali’s reputation.
“I therefore, award damages for libel to the plaintiff (Mtawali). The amount of damages will be assessed by the registrar so that Mr. Mtawali should be compensated,” read Judge Chigona’s verdict.
Mtawali, who traveled to Malabo to feature in an international game of African Legends alongside Doctor Khumalo against the Equatorial Guinea Legends to celebrate the country’s 50th Independent Anniversary, said he felt vindicated, even though his reputation has been dragged through the mud.
However, the Football Association of Malawi has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Malawi, seeking to reverse the decision of the High Court, claiming the High Court Judge “erred in law and in fact to disallow the defenses of consent.
“The decision of the judge in the (High Court) was against the total weight and logic of the evidence received at trial concerning the words complained of in the respondent’s statement of claim.”
Mtawali’s lawyer Zwelithini Chipembere said they were in the process of assessing the damages to determine how much was supposed to be paid to his client when FAM and Mwenda came up with the appeal.
“The latest development means we will make the assessment once the Supreme Court decides that the High Court’s ruling still stands,” he said.
Mtawali has been replaced by Belgian Ronny van Geneudgen.