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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

Bright set to join Sua Flamingos

25th November 2020
Major David Bright

Major David Bright is set to be announced as the new coach of Premier league rookies, Sua Flamingos, who parted ways with their coach, Raizor Tsatselebe, last week after a fall out over players’ welfare.

Bright, who is currently coaching first division south outfit, Holy Ghost was interviewed for the job this week with three other coaches and is said to have agreed to a contract in principle. Sua Flamingos Chairman, Tirelo Thebe was mum on the issue insisting that the deal will be announced at the right time when both parties have put to pen everything.

“What I can tell you is that next month we will announce our coach and he will have time to prepare our team as we aim to not just be at the top league for one season but we want to compete as we are a team that aspire to be one of the top teams in Botswana and one day compete in international CAF games.

Yes Bright is one of the people we are considering so you need to understand that negotiations are private and can break at any time but we hope for the best,” the team Chairman said in a telephone interview.

Bright is also one of the decorated local coaches having coached premier league sides such as Gaborone United, Township Rollers, BDF Xl, and in South Africa where he coached Cape Town Santos, Bay United and Black Leopards.

Bright has also coached the Zebras before they roped in Algerian coach, Adel Ambrouche who is the current Zebras coach. It is to be seen as to whether the management of Sua Flamingos will be able to work smoothly with David Bright who is a man who does not tolerate interference with his squad.

“It’s surprising that the team fired Raizor as he was seen to be more on the side of players and now they are bringing in a coach who doesn’t even tolerate interference from management and very strict on both management and players.

I mean if they have a problem with strict coaches why bring another strict coach? They could have brought in a coach who can listen to them more as management because they want to be in control of the team and everything,” said a source at the club.

“The delay is said to be because Bright has asked for him to be given chance to rope in his preferred assistant coach and management asked to be given time to consider his request as they are not comfortable with the issue,” continued the source.

Sua Flamingo Santos have returned to training and are led by care taker coach, Kopano Computer Phakedi.

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Sport

GU bolster squad ahead new season

25th November 2020
GU Player

Botswana Premiership League outfit, Gaborone United (GU) were the first to open a new chapter in the history books of Botswana football, when they were crowned the inaugural 2008/09 beMobile Premiership champions.

The success came after almost two decades without winning the league title. In a title decider played at Molepolole Stadium, Moyagoleele defeated the defending champions, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, by a solitary goal courtesy of Wellington Maposa.

That was the last time the money machine was crowned the league champions. Just nearly 10 years after breaking a curse of going two decades without tasting league victory, The Reds have regrouped in a bit to return to their former glory days.

GU is currently the busiest club in the transfer market as they are bolstering their squad ahead of 2020/2021 football season.

The Money Machine have secured the signatures of Mothusi Johnson and Karabo Phiri from the Debswana-sponsored giants; Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy respectively.

WeekendSport has since established that both players have signed three-year contracts with the Reds. The club is now under the guidance of business mogul Nicholas Zakhem who is their chief financier.

Moyagoleele’s prodigal son, Phiri, returns to Old Naledi after spending two seasons with the current 2019/2020 BTC Premiership Champions Jwaneng Galaxy.

Phiri was signed by former Jwaneng Galaxy coach Miguel Da Costa during 2018/2019 season where he became their regular player. Phiri has also won the 2019 Mascom Top 8 champions with Jwaneng Galaxy.

Since then, 25 year old has earned himself several national team calls.

Another player who returns home is none other than the ever impressive defender Mothusi Johnson. The 23 year old Zebras defender joined Orapa United from the Money Machine during 2018/2019 season.

However, prior to the elapse of his two year deal with the Ostriches, it was reported that he previously turned down two offers from Orapa United arguing that they did not represent his worth.

Another reason why Johnson turned down two offers from Orapa United was because he wanted to move abroad but later realised that it was going to be difficult for him find a team after the COVID-19 outbreak.

The 23 year-old Johnson made a name for himself on the field of play after he was nurtured by Argentinian coach Rudolf Zapata while at GU. Orapa United Spokesperson, Kabo William confirmed with this publication that Mothusi Johnson will be a Gaborone United player.

“Yes, Mothusi bid us a farewell saying he’s joining Gaborone United. His contract had expired. So we are just waiting for GU to make a request for his clearance,’’ William said.

Former Motlakase Power Dynamos and also Mochudi Centre Chiefs defender, Thato Kebue has left Jwaneng Galaxy after the end of his contract and it has been reported that he signed a pre-contract with the Money machine according to impeccable sources.

The 23 year-old defender joins Galaxy from Magosi during the 2017/2018 season and just like his former teammate Phiri helped his former side win the League and also the Top 8 tournament.

Gaborone United are reportedly keen on signing Jwaneng Galaxy defensive midfielder Lebogang Ditsile. The Reds want to compete for top honours next season and they feel Ditsile can bring the competitive edge they need in the middle of the park.

Meanwhile reports coming from Moyagoleele is that the club is planning to take their caretaker coach to complete CAF A coaching licensing before offering him a new three-year deal.

Moloi made headlines beginning of this year when teams questioned why Botswana Football Association (BFA) allowed him be the head coach for GU while he is holding a B license coaching qualification which only enables him to sit on the GU technical bench as an assistant coach.

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Sport

Gov’t reviews Sport Policy

17th November 2020
Netball

The Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, has expressed its underlying desire to reawaken and improve sport policy.

This is also in line with the declaration made by President Mokgweetsi Masisi in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) this week about the need to improve sport performance in the country.
The sport policy was first enacted in 2001 when the Department of Sport and Recreation was under the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs.

The review of this policy is expected to commence soon and strive to address all socio-economic problems bedevilling sport. The examination will start from the elements that speak to the direct processes of national dialogue of sport and come up with recommendations for improvement.

As things stand, the Sport Ministry has coordinated a task force to deal with the taxing issue of school sports where teachers have downed tools demanding special kind of payment for partaking in extracurricular activities. The government through various means has been made aware that sport forms an integral part of the country’s vision.

If the policy is finally revised, the country and other stakeholders will eventually achieve national development, unity and continued economic growth. “The national Sport Commission Act is also being reviewed to facilitate sport to contribute to the economy through commercialization and professionalism, as well as to improve the welfare and the rights to our sportspersons,” Masisi said in his address.

The review will once again take a long route of extensive consultative processes where critical factors were initially identified as continuous constraint to sport development. There is a wide ranging view that sport is solely for recreation. This anomaly is fast becoming a matter of yesteryears as more athletes are making a living out of sport.

In October of 1997, a discussion paper on sport policy development was prepared. At the time, the workshop brought together policy and decision makers. The discussions precisely centred on issues of sport participation and development. Participants included among others, Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) and National Sports Associations.

There was the discovery of limited funding in sport and poor sporting facilities in the country. This has negatively impacted on the performance of national sports associations, particularly on the global stage. As a measure to this problem, the government has decided to build 10 mini stadia to up participation and performance.

In 2001 when the policy was formulated, there was an agreement that the national guiding principles of democracy, development, unity, self-reliance and botho are cardinal to the development strategy of socio-economic development planning. The Ministry believes that sport and recreation in Botswana have a close relationship with all these national principles.

When speaking to this publication, the Chief Executive Officer of BNSC, Tuelo Serufho said there is indeed an overwhelming appetite to improve sport performance and participation in the country.
“Yes we need to engage both BNSC and BNOC to improve and review the sport policy more because it has been overtaken by time…it needs to be aligned with modern sports trends,” Serufho briefly shared.

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