The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
THE late former Highlanders Football Club chairman, Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda has been conferred with civic honours by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC).
Sibanda, who at the time of his death was a board member for the BCC-owned Bulawayo City Football Club, passed away on Tuesday at a private hospital in the city following a lengthy battle with diabetes.
Speaking at the late Sibanda’s Njube home where mourners are gathered, Bulawayo mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni said the football legend’s burial at Lady Stanley cemetery, which is reserved for the city’s luminaries was a way of honouring for his contribution to football.
“We honour him with burial at Lady Stanley where we have buried other luminaries like Adam Ndlovu. As testimony to his contribution to the development of football in the country, Bulawayo City FC has also written to government asking that he be conferred with National Hero status. Maphepha was a football person and a father figure to everyone. He taught many about football and will be greatly missed,” said the mayor.
The Zanu-PF Bulawayo province has also sent a request to the party headquarters for Maphepha to get a hero status.
Bulawayo provincial commissar Cde Maidei Mpala told mourners that the party was joining the nation in mourning a football legend. She revealed that Maphepha was a party cell member at Njube district. Burial has been tentatively set for Saturday.
The former Highlanders player, team manager and chairman won five championships with his former club. He was the Highlanders team manager when Amahlolanyama won four championships in row from the 1998/99 season up to 2002. Rahman Gumbo and Eddie May were the coaches during that successful period.
In 2006, Sibanda secured the last league title for Highlanders with another Bosso son, Methembe Ndlovu being the coach. Sibanda also served as Zimbabwe Warriors team manager.
So popular was the late Sibanda that he was voted as Highlanders chairman in 2006 in absentia when he was with the national team at the that year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.
His supporters at Highlanders paid for and collected his nomination form which they went on to fill on his behalf, secured the required signatures, which paved way for him to stand against and defeat Kennedy Ndebele in one of the well attended Highlanders Bosso elections over the years.