AS things stand only one man Kenneth Mhlophe has openly declared his interest in the Highlanders FC chairmanship while a possible rival in the form of former chairman Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda is yet to get a blessing from his clan.
Mhlophe two years ago lost the vice-chairmanship race to the incumbent Modern Ngwenya who is currently the acting chairman since the suspension of Peter Dube from “all football matters”.
Mhlophe claims to be driven by an urge to steer the black and white army from debt.
“It’s the huge debt that Highlanders is facing that motivated me to challenge for the chairmanship because the club needs a solid plan to service that debt. We can’t keep talking about the same debt every year yet nothing is being done to reduce it,” declared aspiring Bosso chairman Kenneth Mhlophe.
On the other corner of the ring stands Sibanda whose “backers” have thrown his name into the election race.
But Sibanda wants to consult abadala (the elders) from Gwanda, where he hails from, before committing to challenge for the Bosso top job.
“Numerous people have asked me to contest for the Highlanders chairmanship but I have not made a decision. As you know, I come from Gwanda and taking up such a huge challenge without consulting abadala will only spell disaster for me. I will announce my decision next week,” said Sibanda.
If the elders give him the green light to contest then it’s all systems go for Sibanda.
But he will have to bring his A game because frontrunner Mhlophe is taking no prisoners in the fight for the top job.
Elections are scheduled for 4 February at the Highlanders clubhouse.
Who is Kenneth Mhlophe?
A 62-year-old retired colonel in the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Mhlophe runs a successful security company — Nokel Security — with branches in Bulawayo, Harare, Gwanda and Kwekwe among other cities.
Few people know that Mhlophe was part of the executive that spearheaded the birth of Black Rhinos FC in the 1980’s and also had a stint as a referee in Masvingo while he was still a young member of the ZNA.
What does he hope to bring to the table if elected Bosso chairman?
“I’m the kind of chief executive officer (at Nokel Security) who is not afraid to walk into other CEO’s offices and lay out business proposals that will benefit the club and interested corporate partners. As things stand no one at Highlanders has even bothered to seek audience with our creditors, map out workable payment plans and who knows, some of them might even write off their debts because they have the club at heart and understand the situation we are in,” said the married father of four.
Mhlophe is not worried that he has little experience in football administration.
“I will not be working in a vacuum at Highlanders, there is a capable team that can get the job done but the only difference is that, if elected, I expect the ship to be steered in a certain direction and top of the list is to extinguish the debt. It is not a one-day job but what’s important is we start servicing the debt even if it means paying our creditors in small instalments, that would be a good start,” he said.
Who is Sibanda?
The 65-year-old is arguably the most successful Highlanders team manager having worked under the late chairman James Mangwana Tshuma winning the league title four times in a row from 1999 to 2002.
But controversy would follow and haunt Sibanda.
In 2008 he was fingered in missing funds after the sale of ex-Bosso player Obadiah Tarumbwa to Belgian club Cercle Brugge as well as alleged involvement in the Asiagate scandal.
Both allegations would years later prove to be a curse that he couldn’t simply wish away when in 2015 the Highlanders electoral court barred him from contesting any position in the club’s executive committee.
“I was banned from the club and from participating in any capacity in the club activities for a period of three years and after two years I appealed to the board which lifted my ban and was given back my card as a life member,” said Sibanda.