ACC president Lewis Ncube at the centre of it all
* As the FIDE Master files complaint to world chess governing body
* Mwale was controversially barred from participating at the FIDE World Cup
* ACC president Ncube accused of biased tendencies and unprofessional conduct
By Duncan Mlanjira
The controversy between Chess Association of Malawi (CHESSAM) president Susan Namangale and FIDE Master Joseph Mwale is getting nastier as the association is accusing Africa Chess Confederation (ACC) president Lewis Ncube of bias an unprofessionalism in the way he is handling the matter.
In a letter dated July 21, CHESSAM is accusing the continental chess governing body of inciting Mwale to rebel against CHESSAM’s decision to bar him from attending the FIDE World Cup in Sochi, Russia.
Mwale was controversially barred from participating at the FIDE World Cup and he filed an official complaint to ACC’s Players Commission — which in turn censured CHESSAM for its decision.
Mwale was invited to the FIDE World Cup as a wildcard at the request of Namangale herself following his outstanding performance in the 2021 African Individual Chess Championship (AICC), which Malawi hosted in Lilongwe.
He came 5th place but only the top four automatically qualified for the World Cup Championship, but his performances far outclassed most players many of whom had qualified for the African Individual Chess Championship by virtue of their countries being in the top 100 of FIDE ranking.
Thus Namangale felt Mwale’s performance being exceptional thought obliged to write the FIDE president requesting his discretionary nomination of the Malawian player, which was granted.
But a few days later, Mwale was replaced by former African champion Chipanga Chiletso, accusing the FIDE Master of excessive beer drinking and an incident of harassment on a female player.
CHESSAM informed FIDE that after the AICC, Mwale’s “conduct again became erratic and we suspected that he was not in a sober state of mind and posted remarks faulting CHESSAM on WhatsApp groups that he had not received his AICC prize money (which was true) when Grandmasters had all received (which was untrue)”.
“We cleared this assertion and reminded him that the World Chess Federation (FIDE) would pay all winners directly to their personal bank accounts, and CHESSAM was not the body to pay prize money. Fortunately, 3 days later he acknowledged receiving the money.
CHESSAM then issued a press statement indicating that Mwale has been replaced by Chipanga — that’s when the saga took many twists ACC’s Players Commission censuring CHESSAM for its decision.
CHESSAM has hit back by questioning the legal mandate of the Players Commission in the ACC constitution and on ACC president Ncube of “biased tendencies and unprofessional conduct”.
CHESSAM says while it does not want to engage itself in a protracted argument with ACC, it has been forced to do so after Mwale further filed an official complaint to the world chess governing body FIDE — bringing the stand-off to a nasty level.
CHESSAM accuses the ACC Players Commission of not bothering to share with CHESSAM the contents or grounds of Joseph’s appeal “as is the practice”.
“We learnt from Joseph’s side that the Commission was investigating the issue before the Commission wrote us to respond to some questions,” says the letter issued by general secretary, Leonard Sharra and also copied to FIDE Ethics Commission and Malawi National Council of Sports.
“Having failed to trace the legal mandate of the Players Commission in the ACC constitution, which does not make any reference to the Players Commission, we requested the Commission to avail us with its founding documents and terms of reference but the Commission failed to do this.
“You, Mr President also kept quiet on the legal status of the Commission despite following all the communication between Chessam and the Players Commission.”
However, a letter from Ncube to CHESSAM on July 16 does indicate that the ACC Players Commission “is a legally established committee under Clause 13 of the Statutes” of ACC and that its Terms and Reference and composition is approved by the Board.
Ncube takes note that the ACC Players Commission was established at the same time and under the process as the ACC Women’s Commission, which is headed by Namangale herself.
But CHESSAM still accuses Ncube of failing to provide it with the Players Commission’s terms of reference and further accuses Ncube of authoring the complaint letter that Mwale sent to FIDE’s Ethics Commission.
CHESSAM questions the authenticity of the letter as “looking at the style and language used clearly matches that of the ACC Players Commission Chairman summoned by yourself to guide Joseph”.
“Your present actions, Mr President have reminded us of what you did soon after CHESSAM replaced Joseph with Chiletso Chipanga when you intruded into a local chess forum, Malawi Chess Family after reportedly being given the group’s link by Joseph.
“You had to be removed by one of the admins after members noticed your presence. We had all along doubted the neutrality of the investigation summoned by your office and your own actions and those of the Players Commission have confirmed our fears.”
In its accusation of inciting Mwale to complain to Ncube, CHESSAM refers to a WhatsApp message in which he assures the player that the Players Commission will guide him in the process.
CHESSAM quoted Ncube’s message that the objective of the investigation by the ACC Players Commission was to try and reconcile Mwale and CHESSAM “so that an appropriate agreement could have been reached”.
“Since Chessam refused to respond to the Commission’s questions, citing the matter as internal (which was not correct) and claiming that the Commission was illegal, the ACC Board will issue a report to African Federations next week regarding the work and responsibilities of ACC Commissions with special reference to your case.
“I have explained this to the Chairman of ACC Players Commission and advised him to explain to you the options available to you. The foregoing does not overlook the validity of the report of the ACC Players Commission regarding its investigation into your issue.
“In any dispute, the first option is always to seek reconciliation between the parties involved. When reconciliation attempts have failed, there are enough options available, both within Fide and outside, that can allow you to achieve justice and seek the appropriate compensation.
“The Chairman of the ACC Players Commission will be able to guide you as this is within the terms and reference of the Commission,” Ncube had written Mwale.
CHESSAM responds that it was surprised that Ncube wrote a letter to it with a copy to Mwale, asking the association to reach out to the player “to find a mutually accepted acceptable solution to the situation while at the same time inciting the player to take unspecified action against the association in the underground”.