The last two weeks of May were dominated by reports that long time Gaborone United financier, Nicholas Zakhem was quitting the club. Zakhem had announced that he will soon pack his bags and leave a club he has been baby-sitting financially for a decade.
Zakhem and GU have been in a partnership for the past ten years eventually turning the club to be the shining example of football commercialization which could advise the local soccer scene in that direction.
The BFA president, Tebogo Sebego was pained by Zakhem eminent departure. He declared that if he wielded much power he could have declared a weeklong mourning for the loss of this ‘foot soldier’ (Zakhem) who was pragmatic and walking the talk of Sebego’s slogan of commercialization.
“It is a sad day for football,” Sebego had said in one of the local publications.
However when many especially the GU family were coming to terms with the reality of GU without Zakhem, fresh information surfacing this week offers a glimmer of hope.
Zack as the construction magnate is fondly referred to, is said to be having an undying love for the Old Naledi based club.
“He won’t go anywhere. It was just a gimmick, he is a GU diehard, he only wanted to shake them to cultivate the dying loyalty to him,” a source said.
Among the reasons forwarded for his threat to leave was the team’s court case expected in September which he is uncomfortable with. Zakhem is accused of orchestrating the elevation of Rapula Okaile to the GU chairmanship. Those against Okaile questioned his GU membership and alleged that he was illegitimate.
“We are currently negotiating with him and I won’t share more details because this could jeopardize the talks,” Okaile said on Thursday when contacted for comment.
When Zakhem announced his departure, GU’s fears were borne out of the heavy contractual obligations the club has with players. Most of GU’s players are housed at Zakhem’s estate in Mogoditshane.
The players are still accommodated at the Estate to date, a factor which sources say shows that, “Zakhem is here to stay.”
According to the Money machine insiders, he gave the players until next year to vacate his houses because he wanted to give them enough notice before they vacate.
While the team is currently embroiled in a tug of war against rivals, Township Rollers and South African teams over the services of the Namibian forward, Benson Shilongo, Zakhem is said to have entered the fray representing GU.
Reports indicated that this week the player and the financier were to meet and agree personal terms.
“He is sweet talking the player to sign a new contract and he promised to pay him personally because players doubt the steadiness of the team hence their reluctance to commit long term.”
These developments together with the fact that the team’s AGM is in July could help mend relations between the investor and some personalities in the team’s hierarchy.
In fact the announcement that he was quitting, according to those in the know, was an approach to appease his ego with the hope that the team will up their game more so he feels he is the same top dog he used to be when he joined the team.
“It is simple he wants more shares to run the team; and this will be on the agenda for the AGM for the membership to decide,” another source said.
Zakhem’s Soccer Dynamics which was running the affairs of the team owns 51% and the remaining 49% is for the society.
Information before Weekendsport shows that the fall out between the two allies started after Okaile assumed office and tried to balance things by consulting with other members of the society on the subject of shareholding.
“Remember Rapula was under pressure that he wasn’t the legitimate chairman of the team and he tried to engage the society a lot. The Society was concerned that it was being sidelined,” the sources added that, “But this angered Zakhem and he felt that he was not appreciated hence his threat to quit.”
Local athletes, Zibane Ngozi and Letsile Tebogo have confronted Minister of Youth, Gender and Culture, Tumiso Rakgare citing lack of support during preparations.
Speaking at the World Champs team Welcome Ceremony on Wednesday, the 4 x 400m relay specialist and Team Captain, Ngozi urged some of the government officials inclusive of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) representative, Rakgare to attend these high-profile competitions to witness the hardships they go through during these competitions.
“People need to understand it is not easy for us when we arrive at the World stage, there is a lot that is going on hence we need support in order for us to succeed as expected.
However, I am happy that immediately when I arrived in Botswana, BNSC credited our allowances which was a good thing because we had lots of debts (jokingly) thus we manage to settle them,” he said.
On the other hand, Tebogo who brought home two medals (silver and bronze) from 100m and 200m respectively at the World Champs said most athletes are going through depression due unfavorable conditions.
“Most of us going through depression because we lack support during preparations, we are only celebrated when we win but in hard times we are forgotten. Athletics is a difficult sport hence we need all the support we could to make it through and eventually amass medals as it is expected by our country,”
For his part, Rakgare admitted that local sport is faced with challenges, including but not limited to a tough sponsorship environment, limited or no sport in public schools, doping and leadership instability.
“I would of course be surprised if anyone of you would not agree with me that notwithstanding the challenges, we continue to achieve unprecedented results in sport, and the year to date is no exception,” he said.
Rakgare gave special recognition to Oratile Rose Nowe for heroics at the World Champs, “I would like to take this opportunity and congratulate Nowe for attaining a new personal best 2:01.62 in Women’s 800m, which also happens to be a national record. By the way, Oratile is the first Motswana woman to ever qualify for the World Championships in middle distance running.”
According to Rakgare, Government, recognizes athletes’ achievements at any and every competition, and that is why most recently, they have rewarded them at the Youth and Sport Awards.
“I would like to thank the Government of Botswana for their investment in sport. We continue to pride ourselves in being one of the best funders of sport per capita, and as indicated earlier, we are not intending to slow down anytime soon,”
On a lighter note, World Champs BW Team was rewarded by various companies such as Debswana, Choppies, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) and also government as a token of appreciation for participating in Hungary.
Tebogo was rewarded with P560 000 from Debswana, Choppies and BPC for bringing two medals home, 4 x 400m men relay finalists (Ngozi, Baboloki Thebe, Laone Ditshetelo and Leungo were given P25 000 apiece for reaching the finals and participating by Debswana; while ladies (Tlhomphang Basele, Golekanye Chikani, Lydia Jele, Oratile Nowe, Galefele Moroko, Obakeng Kamberuka were given P10 000 each for participation.
In addition, the World Champs team amassed P926 000.00 of which P250 000 would go to Tebogo and the remaining P676 000 will be shared amongst the rest of the team.
With several local associations currently going through a rough patch in terms of financial quagmires, Botswana Netball Association (BONA) Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mokeresete Mokeresete is optimistic to host the 2023 Africa Netball Cup as per the request from African Netball Board (Executive Committee) because Uganda has pulled out.
Will it be successful or finally quench the thirst of competing internationally?
The African Netball Championships or Africa Netball Cup are a netball competition held every after two years with teams from across Africa competing for the top price.
BONA National team competed in the last edition of the Africa Netball Cup which was held in 2021 in Namibia and they finished in position seven which was average.
Last time BONA hosted an event of this magnitude was the 2017 Netball Youth World Cup which was indeed a success even though the local team (Dinaletsana) finished in position 10.
One would have thought that the Dinaletsana team which looked promising would eventually go on and conquer the world in the following international competitions. However, that has not been the case as they struggled to qualify for the recent World Cup which was held in the neighboring South Africa.
In addition, the Botswana Netball League was last played in November 2022 and in 2023 they hosted a Fast Five Netball Cup just before the Netball World Cup.
In an interview with WeekendSport this week, BONA Public Relations Officer (PRO) said they have accepted to host the 2023 Africa Netball Cup following the pulling out of Uganda.
“We have recently accepted a request to the 2023 Africa Netball Cup, however – we are still working on finalizing all the logistics that will be in play as you are aware that hosting an event requires a budget which might be difficult because we were given a smaller potion in the recent financial year.
Furthermore, we are yet to come up with a consolidated budget which could help us map a way forward as we really want to stage this particular competition. It is vital for us to host this competition as we want to revitalize local netball, we want to attract more for the league,” said Mokeresete Mokeresete.
MORE NETBALL ACTION AHEAD?
Mokeresete further hinted that the upcoming Independence Cup will be preparatory tournament for the upcoming Africa Netball Cup.
“We are going to host the Independence Cup of which we are expected at least 16 ladies’ teams and a few of male’ teams as we are still swiftly introducing the male section to the sport in Orapa.
However, prior to the action we are going conduct courses for match officials, technical official and coaches’ beginners’ level 1 courses as an effort of improve the standards of the sporting code,” hinted Mokeresete.
MISSING THE RECENT NETBALL WORLD CUP WAS CATASTROPHIC
According to BONA PRO, missing the recent Netball World Cup was catastrophic as players missed out on an opportunity to showcase their talents on the world stage which was bound to garner those deals to more professional countries in terms of Netball.
“We are seeing lots of movement for players from countries like Zimbabwe which is remarkable and that could have happened for our player – but it wasn’t to be as we did not qualify for the main event.
Moreover, through the World Cup Legacy Program, we have been awarded a sprung board and we are contention to transport it from South Africa to the country as one of the requirements to host a sporting event is to have a sprung floor,”
Meanwhile, the 2023 Africa Netball Cup is scheduled between November 26 – October 06 2023 at University of Botswana (UB) Indoor Sports Arena.
There is a possibility of discomfort within the Gaborone United technical team following a squabble between former team manager Owe Mmolawa and Peter Butler who is Director of Football over allegations of racial discrimination.
The duo is reported to have had a fall out last month on the flight from Madagascar after Gaborone United sealed a 3-1 win against Elgeco Plus to set a clash with Dstv premiership side, Supersport United in the second round of the preliminary stages of CAF Confederation Cup.
However, WeekendSport was reliably informed that the management of the club swiftly redeployed Mmolawa to become ladies team manager, a position which he rejected and ultimately resigned from the club on the 31st August. Sources claim that the relationship between Butler and Mmolawa had broken down irreparably.
According to the highly placed sources, since the arrival of the British coach at Moyagoleele, Mmolawa was sidelined and it is alleged that Butler started to give him (Mmolawa) an attitude. Others speculate that the master plan is get rid of Coach Pontsho Moloi so that Butler gets the head coach post.
According to a letter seen by this publication – Mmolawa wrote to the Regional Immigration Selection board on the 5th September contesting or seeking an interdict on awarding a substantive residential and work permit to Mr. Peter Butler.
According to the former Gaborone United team manager, “As per the Immigration Act, in particular, Section 19, Clause 4(a), the character of Mr. Butler lacks the rudimentary qualification on the basis of racial discrimination allegations levelled against him. The allegations have been reported to the continental football mother body (CAF) for investigation and determination thereof. The complaint has been lodged by me.”
Mmolawa further said although Butler who is employed as Director of Football of which the qualification requirements for the job include amongst others possession of a CAF A coaching certificate – there is a plethora of local who holds the same qualification.
The fundamental uptake of foreign nationals for employment is that it should be on account of scarce skills or justification for the same.
He therefore said he contended strongly that the application for work permit be declined for Mr. Butler as there are many Batswana who have graduated with CAF A coaching certificate and fit enough to be considered for employment.
“Awarding work and residential permits to Mr. Butler on the basis of this job would be a fatal blow to the efforts of Botswana government in empowering its own citizens, in my solemn view. I raise that Mr.
Butler is prone and has a history of attacking the sovereignty of Botswana as evidenced by his spell away from the country when the football fraternity encountered governance changes. It would be tantamount to fiddling whilst Rome burns to look the away when a man of this character that lacks patriotic fabric seeks employment in Botswana,” reads part of the letter addressed to Secretary of regional Immigration Selection Board.
When reached for a comment relating to racial discrimination levelled by Owe Mmolawa to Mr. Butler, Gaborone United Marketing Manager Herbert Letsebe said as the club they currently don’t have any case bordering on racial discrimination. He said they have only seen social media posts by Owe Mmolawa.
“We as the club do not condone racial discrimination and if we record such case, serious action shall be taken for the offence,” he added.
Letsebe further said allegations between Owe Mmolawa and Butler could be personal hence it’s between the duo. He however confirmed that there was some altercation between the two, when the team was travelling from Madagascar to Botswana.