The wheeling and dealings that turned Bennett Mamelodi from a position of power to the shadows come afar. Staff writer MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE sees the premier league board of governors’ high raking players shifting sands to control Mamelodi who unfortunately never saw his ouster plot coming.
When Bennett Mamelodi, Botswana Premier League‘s Chief Executive Officer, entered Lekidi football centre gates in April 2012, it was indeed a sudden depth of a sport life blended with a football conspiracy that was to mark his full four year reign of basking in the local acclaim for his success and failures in moulding both a new and recognizable league house.
But the fall of Setete Phuthego from the premier league radar as the General Manager – whose contradictory attributes excited and irked the football fraternity in equal measures – was always with controversy and of course ruffled a few feathers. And what raised eye brows and continued to draw burning criticism was the succession from Phuthego to Mamelodi, four months after Bennett‘s arrival into league offices. It was believed that Phuthego’s voice was never audible in the stubborn Board of Governors and his leadership style was questionable even at managerial level, and to top it all, his admiration of power never influenced anybody.
This strategy, believed to have been master-minded by former premier league chairperson Mike Molefe, began to take off immediately when Mamelodi was first given a six months contract to negotiate more sponsors for the league. At the time, his salary did not exceed P25 000. In August 2012, as Mamelodi stamped his authority on the ground, fired Phuthego after local auditor, Marzas audit firm found out that the former general manager had abused office and crippled league coffers.
This surface war of succession, unbeknownst to many, brought into the open the contradictory faces of the league house: the robust force of grass roots social equality within themselves, versus the tight control by the Chairman and his preferred mates.
It was not long when Mike Molefe relinquished his duties as the premier league chairman. According to the eye of observers, Molefe, a former Uniao Flamengo Santos chairman had almost accomplished his mission of first ensuring that Mamelodi stays buoyant at the BPL plum post and secondly, Phuthego is forever dumped outside Lekidi football center.
There was no prize for guessing how when Mamelodi on November 2012 was offered a new three year deal as the first premier league Chief Executive Officer. The post of general manager was subsequently phased out. At that time, Molefe who had left the premier league boardrooms said ‘‘my decision to not stand again has got nothing to do with anybody, but I guess it is just happening manufactured from above.’’
Molefe ‘s bowing out paved a way for Spencer Mmui, a former Township Rollers chairman to take reigns of the board of governors as a chairperson. Sonny Phiri also climbed the ladder of success to be the right arm of Mmui. William Maboane, a smart football administrator by his own admission from Lobatse based club, Extension Gunners became the treasurer. The trio, together with Mamelodi formed the ExCo of the premier league.
It is noted that Molefe wanted Mmui to carry and continue his legacy, but it appeared that the portfolio soon weighed heavily on his back. Those in the thick of things say Mmui had personal and mutual relationship with Phuthego. And having watched his ‘friend’ fall under the premier league radar probably brought him nightmares.
Mmui, as a result tried to develop a thick skin and out rightly repelled all calls to sign Bennett Mamelodi’s contract when extended for a further three years. Moreover, Mmui ensured that his umbilicad cord with Phuthego remained intact. When Phuthego was summoned and arraigned for hearing, it was Spencer Mmui who vehemently refused to sign Phuthego’s charge sheet. Mmui said, ‘‘the charges appearing on the paper are different from those discussed at the Board of Governors.’’
It is believed this episode irked Mamelodi to a certain degree, but what Mmui failed to understand was that he threw himself inside the lions’ den. Mamelodi, according to available information, cajoled and be friended Mmui’s vice, Sonny Phiri. The former BMC chairperson will soon toil with Mamelodi to root out Mmui and sidelined him in the daily running of the league. While their immediate ‘love-affair’ raised eye brows, it surprised a few when Phiri took control of Phuthego case.
That was captured on record when Phiri deposed of the affidavit at the industrial court on behalf of the Premier League. However, many had less regard for his opinions in football matters since they saw him as a new comer in football administration. But those close to him will vouch for his scheming antics. They believed that he had a cunning way of always getting things done his way as signified by the case involving the BPL General Manager. Despite allegations that the majority of the Premier League Executive Committee members were against the charges laid against Setete, he managed to manoeuvre his way resulting to the court case. Sources said Mamelodi‘s hand was operating behind closed doors.
As a guard of urgency, observers say it was relevant that Mamelodi surrounded himself with men he could trust. That the trust between him and Mmui had drastically grown thinner was not in doubt. It was why when news broke that some exco members lent themselves premier league finances, Mmui became the first obvious suspect. While it emerged that Phiri was equally guilty, the then vice chairman was instead given a pat on the back for whistle blowing the matter. As a result, the web of deceit could not catch him, but saw Mmui falling down the football terrain. Immediately Phiri took the button much to Mamelodi’s pleasure.
While he moved to the premier league position of power, Dr Nkomazana of Gaborone United was to be ushered as the second man in command. But at that time, observers noted that Nkomazana’s moral voice wilted even before he could take part. He was known as a man of high integrity, but with Phiri operating above him, he knew he had a high mountain to climb.
As the mist fell, clash of egos within the board continued to trigger the premier league house from its dizzy high ways. The BMC man pushed for the signing of Mamelodi‘s contract, although it was now common knowledge that Nkomazana opted for a hard stance. He bled, albeit in vain for Mamelodi’s contract to at least be signed with deliverables.
It was not long when Phiri’s rollercoaster ride in the board reached a dead end. BMC company announced that it is stopping to fund its teams. While that was a catastrophe on the side of Phiri, it would later became a foregone conclusion when the team was sold to one business man Goudratti, and what was Phiri ‘s bold journey in the board was now becoming a walk of shame. As he left the post, Mamelodi became vulnerable and exposed.
The board later convened to elevate Segolame Ramotlhwa to be a chairman, although on interim basis. Those in the know said Ramotlhwa had a tainted past with Mamelodi, and their irreconcilable differences meant that football will suffer.
That the blood brother of Ashford Mamelodi contemplated for means of survival was not in doubt. When Notwane was sold to one controversial Motswana business man, Gift Mogapi, Ramotlhwa exited the scene; Mamelodi briefed a sigh of relief.
No sooner had the mood began settling than Mike Molefe returned at helm of the board. He bite the bullet for Mamelodi in demonstration of tight affair. BDF XI went to court seeking legal redress after their game against Mochudi Center Chiefs was called off. The army side were of the view that their game should be played as reason to reschedule it, in the eyes of them, were not holding water. While decision making process at Molefe ‘s board was several times questioned by Judge Mercy Garekwe of Lobatse high court, Molefe and Mamelodi refused to be buried by the outcome of the court case.
Molefe ‘s was to later call a press briefing and admitted that BDF XI was now a prime enemy. But beneath and over everything else, his prolonged love for his CEO, Mamelodi matters most. “We went to court and the outcome is public knowledge, but for Peo Keatlholetswe(BDF XI PRO) to go on radio on Sunday night and attack the league and our CEO was unfortunate and down-right disingenuous.” He continued, “Bennett Mamelodi is not a public punching bag and we reject the misguided habit of him being attacked with impunity even though, in most instances it is not justified.”
That triggered the plot to remove Mamelodi. When the board went for polls, GU,BDF XI, Extension Gunners and Mochudi Center Chiefs became the lead characters. These teams felt aggrieved and wanted Mamelodi out particuraly after BDF XI were docked 6 points, a far reaching consequence that saw Township Rollers winning the 2013-14 premier league. Although it was later dismissed, such teams had handpicked Kitso Dlamini to replace Mamelodi.
In came Monnakgotla Mojaki. He canvassed a massive support from northern teams. Arnold Somolekae and the Mojaki chap later won the two upper-most seat. A move that built a rigid wall around Mamelodi once again. Observers say Mojaki was a key to Mamelodi ‘s door while Somolekae-a former Notwane chairman was the lock.
That year, the league ran smoothly but as it neared its end, a defaulter case emerged. A decision that was to break the three-way relationship between Mojaki, Somolekae and Mamelodi was taken. Maun based outfit, Sankoyo Bush Bucks was docked points as they were moving towards the lower league, hell broke loose.
It is said Mamelodi was not pleased with the decision, but no one knows exactly what happened between him and Mojaki when the CEO resigned. The then BFA president Tebogo Sebego convinced him to reconsider his decision more particularly that the date of awards ceremony was approaching.
Notwane the first team to win the national league in 1978, later relegated. The move, yet again left the position of the premier league chairman vacant. At this time, Mamelodi’s enemies eyed the post to continue their mission of removing him. But one Walter Kgabung was brought to neutralise the volatile board of governor’s factions. He was assisted by Solomon Mantswe of Police XI as Mojaki stepped aside.
In March 2015, 8 months before Mamelodi’s contract was to expire, the enemies began hitting. It is said Kgabung became the shield and was vociferous enough to pull strings towards the CEO’s side. When a committee that included Clifford Mogomotsi of centre chiefs and Okaile Rapula of GU was formed to assess Mamelodi prospects of staying on top, little was known that guns were loaded for his fall.
Although his contract was later extended with improved offers, many inside the board were not pleased. Earlier this year, an uproar emerged as teams questioned about their grants. It is said when Mojaki asked why the CEO was the only signatory in league account, emotions were heightened. At that stage, the ouster plot‘s mission was accelerated. The board would soon suspend Mamelodi and recalled both Kgabung and Mantswe for allegedly failing to tame the CEO.
Mamelodi fought for his suspension at the court, challenging the authenticity of the league board to set him aside. The move would later pit the board that had grown defiant against BFA president, Tebogo Sebego. He instructed that Mamelodi be reinstated. The Mamelodi-Sebego axis, according to many would risk Sebego‘s hopes as of going to BFA polls.
When Mc Lean Letshwiti won the BFA presidency seat in August 13, Mamelodi’s best laid plans began to unravel.
The board led by Oakaila, dominated by surviving old players is said to have played a pivotal role in dumping Sebego out of football. But what remains now in sight is that Mamelodi is unwanted man. He was redeployed a week ago, but fought through his attorney Dutch Leburu to grip his post. He lost the battle of redeployment and throughout the week word spilt that he was slapped with another suspension as relations with new regime decayed further.
Mamelodi surfaced on the football spectrum after his brother, Ashford connected him FIFA representative Ian Riley. The two would later form a company called Pula Sports Marketing that negotiated sponsor on behalf of the league. The company to date is going under liquidation and BFA still owes it P2.5 million.
With just three weeks left before the World Athletics Championships kicks off in London, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has set a modest target for its athletes, demanding a paltry two medals.
The members of the team that will be participating in the event are currently training. They are expected to leave on July 10. The Botswana team, which was composed of young athletes, was able to secure seven medals at the recently concluded Africa Senior Championships held in Mauritius. They were placed sixth out of 44 participating nations.
According to Oabona Theetso, the Vice President of the Botswana Athletics Association, the team’s goal is to secure two medals at the World Championships. On the other hand, the under-20 team’s goal is to bag at least four medals.
Nevertheless, Theetso said the team which is currently on training camp encompasses of Isaac Makwala, Nigel Amos, Anthony Pesela, Bayapo Ndori, Letsile Tebogo, Isaac Makwala, and Thalosang Tshireletso of High jump just to mention the few. Theetso noted that the training camp was not able to produce a female athlete due to the failure of the female athletes to secure a ticket to the event.
Theetso also noted that the BNOC gave the BAA about P500 000 to help fund the team’s preparations for the event. Besides the training camp, the organization additionally received the same funding for the Oregon World Champion team.
When asked about the presence of renowned athlete and 800m world record holder, Nijel Amos, at the training camp, Theetso revealed that he has never officially communicated his intention to become an independent athlete.
When further pressed about the outcome of the meeting between Amos and the Minister – Theetso said, “We are unaware that he ever meets with Rakgare. If they met without the presence of BAA official, it will be wrong and highly regrettable,” he said.
When contacted for a comment Tlhobo Tlhasana who is Public Relations Officer at Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture confirmed to this publication that Amos met with Minister Tumiso Rakgare a few weeks after the 2012 Olympic silver medalist made known his intention to go solo.
“The minister is at liberty to meet any sport personality from different codes in his capacity as the minister. He doesn’t need the permission from BAA or let alone BNSC to have a meeting with Amos,” he noted. Meanwhile in 2019, BAA sent a strong team of 13 athletes, with five focused on individual categories, while others were to form part of relay team.
During that time two out of five athletes who were to represent this country within individual events were relegated to spectators owing to injuries. But the injuries on the two athletes had left one question on the lips of many within the athletics fraternity.
The duo of Nigel Amos and Galefele Moroko, who were undoubtedly team Botswana poster kids, saw their dream of sailing through in the competitions halted as they were forced out of tournament owing to injuries. Botswana eventually came home empty handed after failing to secure podium finish.
Botswana Football League (BFL) Chairperson Nicholas Zackem who is also a Gaborone United financier and director says Township Rollers should instead of being a hard-nut be remorseful on the Onkarabile Ratanang marathon case.
In an interview with WeekendSport this week, Zackhem says he has always had a good relationship with his Township Rollers counterpart, Jagdish Shah. However things took a nasty turn early this year when it surfaced that their left back Onkarabile Ratanang was not registered accordingly.
Again, the Rollers home game against GU played in February which resulted in a near stampede left him agitated such that Rollers should learn a lesson. “So with all these I think they should be remorseful and stop being militant,” he said.
His contention is, “this is recurring and with only one team – Rollers. Remember what happened in 2014 when BDF X1 was leading the log and they were docked points which in turn allowed Rollers to win.” In 2016 there was Ofentse Nato (Rollers player) saga where he was also not duly registered and now we are here again with Ratanang. This should be corrected to better our football.”
The Ratanang case has been dragging for months now and has created unnecessary chaos in local football. Of late the football league awards ceremony had to be postponed with those in the know saying it is because of the matter. A statement from BFL however says the postponement is a result of logistical challenges.
The BFL boss says he does not care what should happen to Rollers, which is arguably the most followed football team in the land. “Even if the relevant structure could fine the P100k or relegate or even be docked points I don’t care but I want them to respect football. My worry is they should be disciplined because they committed a heartfelt mistake.”
Some football commentators say there is high possibility of Rollers be axed from the elite league because they are facing a misconduct charge which means they can only plea for a lighter sentence like points docking.
When asked about reports of some players from other teams not registered accordingly just like Ratanang, Zackhem said it will be up to the relevant structures to decide because as far as he is concerned, the Rollers case is the only one that has been reported at Botswana Football Association (BFA).
ZAC ON BRIBING REFEREES
The 2021/22 football season was exciting but here and there it was blotted by allegations which were pointed at Zackhem himself as the league Chair of buying referees. He has vehemently dismissed those reports and rumours saying the current GU arsenal does not need any favors.
“We invested heavily on this team and if you have invested surely you are poised to win everything on offer. Look at the players that I have do you think I would need referees to win matches? Most of the players have also been called to the national team and that alone proves their mettle. I don’t remember the last time GU was awarded a penalty this season, it has been a team work and those referee talk is baseless.”
“I am a dreamer and perseverance is my name because after writing my Cambridge examinations a few years ago, I grouped young footballers in Francistown and started a youthful unregistered football team with them.
It was a difficult thing to do because the players were students and parents were not letting some of them to play football as they believed it might negatively affect their studies and some of the big clubs in the elite league will come and take my players.”
This is how Seemo ‘Sixteen’ Mpatane, a coach and founder of Eleven Angels football club which gained promotion to the elite league last weekend describe himself and the journey thus far. Barely two weeks ago, Mochudi Center chiefs failed to pluck Angels’ wings when they hosted them at Riverplate grounds during the first leg of the Botswana Football league promotional playoffs but this past Saturday Angels soared to a 5 – 0 win over them to reach the promised land.
The win meant Lekgamu la Bananyana (youthful side) as they affectionately known will now make a debut appearance at the apex of local league football. For a match characterized by a long stoppage time following clashes between Angels and Chiefs supporters, it was Angels who showed more battle to convincingly beat Chiefs and attain promotion.
Nevertheless, Mpatane said, “I continued to coach my team even when I was still studying at Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) in Francistown and it was a difficult journey because I had some school projects to do and I will divert my monthly allowance to some of my players; to feed them, provide transportation for them and also to buy them soccer boots,” he stated.
In 2013, he says, he decided to register the team officially with Botswana Football Association (BFA) in order to protect the players from other teams and to make income out of the team. He further said Lekgamu La Bananyana started in Third Division league when they got position one and gained automatic promotion to Second Division league although it was only their first season to play there.
“We struggled at Second Division because I had inexperienced youthful players and had limited resources like transportation, soccer boots and most of our players were sitting for their examinations, but we managed to avoid relegation as we finished in position four,” he alluded.
In 2017/18 season, he said the team won the Second Division League and qualified for the Debswana First Division North playoffs. During the playoffs, the team represented Francistown region, against other three teams from other regions, to be precise Chobe United, Maun Terrors and White Diamond from Boteti region.
In addition, the young tactician managed to produce quality players like Norman Mabaya who plays for Orapa united, Doctor David and Fortunate Thulare of Jwaneng Galaxy and Molaodi Tlhalefang of Security Systems who went and made their caps at the senior national team.
“I achieved one of my dreams; that is to take my team to the elite league and I’m left with one that is coaching at national level and I think after getting my license I will be ready to lead under 17, 20, 23 and even the national team cause it just requires humility, love, perseverance and commitment, but right I can offer my services cause football is in the heart,” he said.
Mpatane revealed his intention is to see more of his players participating at national level and overseas, as this week Zebras interim coach Mogomotsi Mpote called the 18-year-old Monty Enosa to be part of Zebras team which will compete for COSAFA tournament that is set to kick off next month.