Michelle (left) and Nicole Muzanenhamo with their coach/mum Connie

Family glory as Sikhulile High affirms netball prowess

Nkosilathi Sibanda
WHEN one is told of the victorious milestone that Sikhulile High School has etched in the country’s netball competitions, they are sure to be lured to know more about two siblings in the school team.

The two, Michelle and Nicole Muzanenhamo are the school’s poster girls of sport. They were instrumental in helping their school win the prestigious Stella Tea/Nash 17-and- under netball national competitions for the third year running. No school has achieved such a feat in the history of the competition. The tournament is the biggest and most rewarding in schools netball locally.

The siblings stood out as the best of out a team that comprised Gladys Makono, Nobukhosi Ndlovu, Serah Nyoni, Ntando Sibanda, Gabisile Sibanda, Sihle Ngulube, Nomagugu Makhalima, Nyarai Sithole and Felistus Kangwa.

Even stern sport critics agree that in a team, a show of individual prowess has to stand out and be celebrated.

The Muzanenhamos’ story to stardom has caught the eye of netball coaches countrywide, with many not shy to admit how they admire the talent exhibited by the sisters. The sisters also made history by being the only siblings to take part in the Stella Tea tourney in successive years.

Their trophy cabinet is already full of silverware and they have represented Zimbabwe in many junior netball competitions.

For displaying topnotch netball, Michelle (aged 17) and Nicole (15) were chosen to be part of Team Zimbabwe to compete at the regional netball showcase-the Confederation of Schools Sport Associations of Southern Africa (Cossasa) in Lesotho from 23-29 August.

Already Michelle has four national team call-ups. She has played in an Olympic qualifier and World Youth Championships.

The Muzanenhamo siblings have seen it all with the school team, from the sad days of losing to the splendour of winning. The elder one also plays club netball with Platinum Queens and has won great compliments for her distinct ball possession and classy finish in the ring. As an attacker, she propelled Sikhulile to the Stella Tea final by netting as many balls for the team to bag points.

Plucking a leaf from her sister, the younger one plies her trade with Division two outfit Free Stars. Nicole is no lesser of talent as she also knows how to please and get the desired result. At the centre of the court, Nicole wins all the balls and has a knack for distributing them right where they are wanted.

The Muzanenhamo talent is indeed a testimony of the apple that fell nearer to the tree. The sisters are coached by their mother Connie Witness Buka, a renowned netball gaffer whose repute extends to being a national team talent scout.

With rare talent passed on from their mother, the teenagers have had it easy in getting a sporting DNA.

Buka said her daughters’ talents were a reflection of hard work.

“I would not want to take the credit because my girls are in a class of their own. I do take them on rigorous training routines but I think what they get from their teammates and coaches at Sikhulile add on better.

“I played netball professionally and I am in a position to help my girls’ school perform better by advising coaches whenever I can. Winning the Stella Tea competition has come at the right time. I have never felt this good,” she said.
Netball lessons are “daily bread” for the family.

“My daughters have to know that they can reach places with netball. I preach netball everyday and take that sermon to the school teams. Every player knows that I want the best out of them. They can make a living and live to tell stories that will inspire other girls to take up sport,” Buka said.

She beams when she talks about her team, in particular her daughters’ merits. She describes them as rare gems.
Zimbabwe Netball Association president Letticia Chipandu has high regard of the talent exhibited by the Muzanenhamo household.

“Those two sisters are a marvel to watch. They complement talent that is at Sikhulile. It is not only them that make Sikhulile big. They form the nucleus of a team that we have seen bringing the best out of netball in the past years.

“We as the netball family are blessed to have the two most talented girls in the history of schools netball and of course their mother too. Nicole and Michelle are the best that Sikhulile has ever had. Ever since they started playing for the school team, they have won a lot.

When asked of their skills and plans for the future as athletes, the two sisters said they were eyeing international dominance.

Nicole said the world was yet to see what she is made of.

“I am going all the way up. The sky is the limit.”

Her elder sister feels she has to thank her team mates for the motivation.

“If it was not for our team mates, I do not think we could have achieved this. Our mom is on us everyday encouraging us to do our best. In the near future, you are going to see us in the country’s senior team,” she said.

For years now, Sikhulile has done what other schools have failed to do. Nestled in Bulawayo’s Lobengula West suburb, Sikhulile is one school with not so good sporting facilities. Yet, in its lack it has endeavoured to produce talented netball players.

The school boasts hordes of household names in other sports codes as well.

Last Wednesday as the Stella Tea champions paraded their trophy, the feeling that engulfed the school and Lobengula West community was electric.

“We feel like world champions. This is a great feeling,” Nicole said.