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Mamelodi: From Authority to obscurity

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.

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Dambe, Tsotso dump Zebras

12th April 2021

Remnant of the historic Africa Cup of Nations squad of 2012, Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele and Botswana’s first-choice goal keeper, Kabelo Dambe, will never embody the future of the Zebras as long as Adel Amrouche is at the helm, WeekendSport has established.

The duo made this confession in the squad secret WhatsApp group seen by this publication, expressing concern and antipathy about playing for the squad heavily polarised by the coach.

It turns out that the coach has players he favours and prefers, many of who appear in the starting line-up as a long lasting promise to be signed under his stable. The aim is to ultimately recruit them to far flung clubs and earn a commission.

Ngele who remains the only player to have scored the Zebras goal (in open play) at the 2012 edition has endured a rocky affair with the coach.

Not much has been established as to why the affair is in tatters but sources claim that it stretched to a point where Amrouche confronted Ngele’s former coaches at Black Leopards to discuss possible options of side-lining him. The idea was to frustrate the player and kill his confidence as the only player Zebras looked up to.

Ngele, under former coach Peter Butler, was named the squad captain but under Amrouche, he has played cameo roles in World Cup and AFCON qualifiers. Ngele has made three appearances and came once as a substitute in all the 10 games Amrouche managed.

Ngele was hoping for his own great leap forward in an effort to end his nightmare and play for the Zebras especially after earning playing time with his new club, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.

Do this day, Ngele has made more than 35 appearances for the Zebras since earning his debut in 2009. Away from The Zebras stage, Ngele made significant contributions at Platinum Stars, the first team he signed his professional contract with. In 67 games, he scored 19 times.

Amrouche’s insistency and promise to make a loud impact in this year’s qualifiers did not bear fruit. Part of the blame is shoved on Township Rollers stopper, Kabelo Dambe. He is accused to have failed to stand strong for Zebras and shipped in simpler goals that cost the team to book a flight to Cameroon next year.

A goal against Algeria on home soil and a goal by Zimbabwe last month could have never gone through had he positioned himself better, critics claim.

Dambe who has more than 44 caps and played all Zebras games under Amrouche feels hard done and had hoped the coach and the nation would protect him. He feels the ambition of the country to qualify mirrors a tomorrow that could never come because of his mistakes.

Botswana Football Association (BFA) General Manager of National Teams, Monnakgotla Mojaki when pressed for interview failed to provide details about the future of the two stars.

He expressed concern that he was never hands on when the squad played the qualifiers. This according to Mojaki, was the case because the coach had barred him from mingling with the players.

“I am sorry I cannot assist you with anything, I know nothing and remember I have not spoken to anybody since I was asked not to come to camp,” he shared.

Both Dambe and Ngele are not only equally unhappy but are also equal in age; both are 30 years and have played for Platinum Stars at one point in their careers.

However, there is information to the effect that the duo made a promise to return one day, and that is when the coach has parted company with the association.

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Galaxy star wants out

12th April 2021

Lebogang Ditsile has begun to cast fresh doubts over his future as a Jwaneng Galaxy player. The hard tackling midfielder has handed the club management a transfer request amid rumours linking him with Gaborone United.

This week, the industrious player gave Galaxy an ultimatum -to either improve his contract benefits or let him go- this comes after a decision was taken to offer the whole team pay cuts amid the corona virus pandemic.

Galaxy has arrived at a conclusion of giving each player P3000 until a time football returns to the field.Ditsile, one of the club’ highest paid players is certainly restless and would not want to entertain a second thought over his future.

Galaxy on the other hand is feeling distraught over GU’s constant communication with the player, and are also aggrieved that the Nikholas Zakhem powered team wants to prize away their asset. Ditsile’s contract does not expire until June of 2022.

The situation is not yet explosive but it is believed to have gotten under Ditsile’s skin and it is threatening to turn ugly. Ditsile apparently is the best thing ever to happen to Galaxy and to leave them at this point will surely be a great loss that could take some time for the club to recover.

However, GU is busy making their move for their long-time target and the enterprising midfielder is said to be determined to complete the transfer before the season begins. It is said the player wants to play football without hustles, which Galaxy cannot promise at the present moment, and the allure of GU will certainly prove too much to stay from.

The team led and directed by Zakhem is reported to have promised ‘Tally’ a mouth-watering contract should he voluntarily terminate. It is however noted that GU cannot risk buying the player who is still on a running contract.

It is believed that Ditsile recognises GU as one of the country’s leading clubs, capable of competing for the grandest prizes. In the event of joining GU, Ditsile would have fulfilled his dream of playing for a rich paying club.

He has enjoyed his years at Galaxy, where he is feted by the supporters, but feels that the time is right to move on. It is impossible to dispute the value and service that he has given to the club, with last season being his best.

The fan-favourite, who has had an on and off relationship with the national team, is still held by the terms of his contract while discussions between his agent are continuing behind closed doors.

Those close to developments mention that Ditsile is yet to be shocked by the stubborn position held by the Galaxy; but the club will surely hate losing such a prized possession to their fiercest rivals.

The Galaxy management has a reputation of being tough negotiators but for Ditsile, the offer from GU is one that should be impossible to refuse.On the other hand, GU are mindful of the tactics often displayed by Botswana players.

They have a tendency of bargaining through rival clubs so as to increase salary or force the management to act swiftly.

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Sport

Panic ahead of women champions’ league

12th April 2021

The absence of women national league in the country has caused anxiety and alarm at Botswana Football Association (BFA) secretariat. PIC: Soccer Laduma

This is the case because the inaugural COSAFA women champions’ league is about to kick start and BFA is expected to send the name of the team that will represent the country.

As things stand, the association is caught between a rock and a hard place because they are unable to determine the deserving team. The reality facing the association is because its women nation-wide league has never been played since the first corona virus case was registered in March of 2020.

However, the association has devised a plan and a model to opt for a team that will participate in the tournament to be held between November and December of this year. The play offs are expected to commence in August.

BFA has therefore called for an expression of interest from clubs to select the most deserving team.The expression of interest, according to BFA, should cover the club’s financial viability and ability to honour its games (both home and away) without fail. According to findings, the club will need a minimum of P100 00 to play a telling role.

It is therefore highly unlikely that BFA will find a women’s team enjoying such financial freedom. In any case, the association will be forced to offer financial assistance.Township Rollers, Mexican girls and Double Action are the few teams that can possibly be selected, but a huge question mark hangs over their financial disposition.

One other thing needed through the expression of interest is the current books of accounts which will definitely show that the club has been operating. BFA is of the view that this is important because it will help in showing the financial progression of the team.

“We are very pleased with how these events were organized under very difficult circumstances,” COSAFA General Secretary, Sue Destombes said in a statement.

“We take what we learnt in Nelson Mandela Bay into our planning for 2021. We have a full calendar of tournaments at this stage. We are hopeful we will be able to stage them all, even in these most challenging times.

The highlight must be the introduction of the regional Women’s Champions League, which will be a zonal qualifier for the new CAF Women’s Champions League which is coming later this year,” she further shared.

 

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