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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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Sport

Talks to merge BNOC, BNSC resurface

14th September 2020
BNOC,BNSC merge

The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.

The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.

Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.

The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.

The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.

“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.

In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.

He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.

When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.

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Sport

P50 000 to expatriate Rollers players

14th September 2020
FRANCIS AFRIYIE

Township Rollers is anticipated to spent around P 50 000 to expatriate their foreign based players amid ravaging corona virus threats. The club, in collaboration with the Football Union of Botswana (FUB) tested Francis Afriyie, Fabian Assagou Guy and Kamogelo Matsabu before they can head to their native countries.

The trio are awaiting the results which are all expected to come out negative, following which they will immediately board planes to their various destinations. Afriyie was a Rollers striker from Ghana.

Matsabu, regarded the darling of the club is heading back to South Africa while Guy signed by the club but has never impressed, will board a plane back to Ivory Coast.It is likely that both Matsabu and Guy will return as they are still contracted to Rollers. However, Afriyie will not return after failing Rollers litmus test.

The striker failed to break into the starting 11 of head coach Frank Nuttall for the season and it appeared that frustration got to him. And when it finally knocked him down, the striker in a rough and unexpected remonstration stormed out of the bench while a Rollers game was on.

The former Gho Maria striker penned a two year deal in January and it is rumoured that his contract was heavily incentivized, catapulting him to being one of the highest paid players at Rollers.His end of season departure will now put a serious question mark over Rollers’ recruitment policy.

He becomes the fourth foreign striker to fail the club examinations and released while on contract. Before him was, Mthokosize Msomi from South Africa, Terrence Mandawa from Tanzania and Fabian Mbowa from Ivory Coast. Msomi and Mandawa’s release were sanctioned by former coach Nikola Kavazovic. Mbowa is loaned to Police XI to create space and playing opportunity for the now departing Afriyie.

Releasing Afriyie will now mean that the club’s striking woes continue. Rollers management complained at times last season at the lack of productivity from their strikers but they hoped that striker Tumisang Orebonye and other targeted signings, aided perhaps by Edwin Moalosi who remains on the books, could fire an upturn.

However, it was never meant to be as they finished the season second behind league winners, Jwaneng Galaxy.

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Sport

Leopards dump jilted Tsotso

7th September 2020
MOGAKOLODI TSOTSO NGELE

Black Leopards head coach, Joel Masutha, is reported to have orchestrated a move that could see mid fielder-cum-striker, Mogakolodi Tsotso Ngele, being dropped by Leopards.

WeekendSport has learnt that the coach summoned the Zebras former captain to a one-on-one meeting a month ago to relay the bad news. It is reported that Masutha told the player that he is surplus to requirement and therefore he will not be selected for any game unless he opts to leave.

Reports further state that Tsotso was not encouraged to fight for his position but instead was told that there are better players to be tasked with scoring responsibilities and helping the club to dodge the dreaded relegation axe.Ngele therefore is waiting for his contract to expire before plotting his next move. He is said to be torn between playing for one more year in South Africa and coming to Botswana to play for high paying Township Rollers.

The Rollers decision will once again hinge on his private business which he would love to monitor closely. He owns a sports clothing label where he already signed a two year deal with Notwane FC.Ngele’s career at Leopards blew hot and cold. He only enjoyed his stay when his former coach Calvin Johnson was at the helm.

He played in crucial matches and his stunning free kick against log leaders Kaizer Chiefs is still remembered by his followers.However, there have been many other factors at play.It is said Ngele’s future at Thohoyandou- a location where Black Leopards is based- encountered problems of many kinds. His future is believed to have been dulled by injuries and a confidence that strangely refused to bloom.

The player is also said to have broken ranks with Leopards management where he shocked them when playing for the senior national team last year albeit claiming to be suffering from a thigh injury. Ngele had signed a two year deal, but as things stand, the left footed midfielder is heading out as his contract staggers to an end. He is believed to be earning close to R80 000 after tax deductions.

The lifestyle and living conditions at Thohoyandou are also seen as factors that further complicate Ngele’s situation hence the sudden collapse of concentration in football.Ngele is said to be represented by Tim Sukazi who still hopes that the player’s breakthrough career is worth fighting for.

When signed by high spending Mamelodi Sundowns almost 5 years ago, he was represented by Mike Makaab, also a renowned football agent in South Africa.It is growing precarious for Ngele who was chained for longer spells at Sundowns.

But when a move to Leopards was announced, there was a high expectation that the player was nearing his revolutionary season.

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