Zimbabwe soccer boss Phillip Chiyangwa has dismissed reports about his arrest as “fake news” aimed at tarnishing his image. Picture: Xinhua/Han Yan

Harare - Zimbabwe soccer boss Phillip Chiyangwa has dismissed reports emanating from sections of the northern country's media about his arrest as “fake news” aimed at tarnishing his image.

Voice of America and Studio 7 were on Sunday widely quoted as saying the tough-talking football chief and businessman had been arrested while trying to flee Zimbabwe with bags of money. The reports further claimed he was being held at an undisclosed jail.

Speaking to The Star on Monday, Chiyangwa, who is also the Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) president, said he was disappointed at “the lies being spread in the media” about his being arrested.

“As you can hear, I am talking to you directly. I am a bona fide businessman and I have worked hard for everything that I have,” he said.

Chiyangwa was listed as being one of the people rounded up by the Zimbabwean military as part of Operation Restore Legacy, which has seen several high-profile names detained in the past two weeks, including Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo.

The new government has accused those it is targeting of being criminals who have looted the national purse. Chiyangwa said he has been in South Africa on business and would be travelling to Zimbabwe a free man.

“I have never held a cabinet post or position in government. Why do people want to put me in the same basket as people like (professor Jonathan) Moyo and (Saviour) Kasukuwere. That is rubbish,” he said.

Read more: #Zimbabwe military continues purge of 'criminal elements'

Moyo and Kasukuwere were both trusted ministers in former president Robert Mugabe’s government and are currently hiding in undisclosed countries.

In a phone call recorded and circulated by his friend, Joburg-based businessman Mutumwa Mawere, Chiyangwa again calls stories of his arrest “all lies”.

Chiyangwa was once believed to be a cousin to Mugabe, but Patrick Zhuwao, a nephew of the deposed leader, ruled out any family links.

The Star