The Sunday News
THERE is belief that when Highlanders Football Club catches a cold the whole City of Bulawayo sneezes. Whether that is true or not it is neither here nor there. But what is clear is that Bosso as Highlanders FC is fondly called by its multitude of fans is loved and treasured not only in Bulawayo but even beyond the country’s borders, no wonder the moniker — Ithimu Yezwe Lonke (the nation’s football team).
With football in the country held hostage by Covid-19 and no action taking place on the field of play in the last season except for the charity shield match between Bosso and FC Platinum, attention has shifted to what is happening in boardrooms of the world’s most beautiful game. That takes us to the forthcoming Highlanders FC elections scheduled for next month where the coveted chairman’s post is up for grabs, so is that of the secretary-general and committee member’s post.
It had looked smooth sailing for the incumbent, former army senior officer, Retired Colonel Kenneth Mhlophe as no one among the Bosso faithful seemed eager to challenge him. However, the announcement last week by Bulawayo businessman, pharmacist and prominent farmer in the Matabeleland region, Johnfat Sibanda that he had thrown his hat into ring meant the chairman’s post would be subjected to an election.
Sibanda’s intentions blew the race wide open and brought excitement to the elections that seemed to be a dead rubber. While it is not for us to judge or give pointers on who is the better candidate for the coveted crown of chairmanship, we believe it would have been a tragedy to see such a position that is critical to the club failing to attract takers. Even now we believe having two candidates is not enough.
In world football and other political theatres positions such as that of the head of an institution are usually subjected to serious contestations with those angling for it falling under serious scrutiny to prove their worth.
Serious Bosso members worth their salt should stop this nonsense of saying there is no need to challenge incumbents in contested positions because there is a need for continuity. To us that sounds like an idle talk from vision-less people who are career cheer leaders.
Having the chairman’s post and other positions contested is a positive development as that continues the club’s old age democratic tradition of electing its leaders in the process institutionalising the idea of having leaders that are legitimately chosen from the club’s rank and file. Subjecting the incumbent to a contest further creates interesting dynamics of having him to think about some of the things that they have done.
It also brings fresh dynamism and ways of thinking in the electoral process. If the incumbent wins that will be an expression of confidence in him and if not then it means the incumbent has not done well and the team needs a new direction.
From where we stand, we believe whoever will win the forthcoming election as the chairman has his work cut out for him. We say so because there is a feeling among the ordinary membership of the club that the centre is failing to hold and has been so for sometime. A case in point is the debt clearance campaign that was driven by ordinary members led by prominent supporter Nodumo Nyathi.
While what Nyathi and his team did was a cause for celebration — the move also exposed the weakness of the system. While we do not blame Mhlophe for the debt as that was a legacy one with different administrations failing to arrest it, we still feel for ordinary members to jump in was an indictment on the leadership at Highlanders that the centre had failed to hold.
It was an indication that the centre was not as strong as we had envisaged and was quickly running out of ideas. It exposed serious structural weaknesses within the leadership.
Sibanda and Mhlophe are accomplished businesspeople, but it would be interesting to hear what they have to offer. Are they coming in to perpetuate the bitter rivalry between Bosso and Dynamos, which to us although spellbinding is getting outdated.
Do they want to see the team remain a semi-professional club at the mercy of benefactors who would come in and donate a soccer ball here and bottles of water there. Then it is celebrated as an achievement by the club’s leadership.
From where we stand, we believe it is high time the team’s electoral college gives a mandate to a candidate who will take this sleeping giant with an enduring social capital to another level. Highlanders needs a chairman who realises that Bosso’s biggest asset is football — growing local talent that will give the team’s fans good football and then transfer those players to higher professional leagues to make money for the club.
Bosso is in the business of football and producing stars, not peripheral business ventures devoid of the beautiful game. Anything other than football is monumental failure on those in charge.
Highlanders should be by now competing in Africa with the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns, Asec Mimosa, Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, TP Mazembe, Wydad-Casablanca, Esperance, Al Ahly, Al Hilal and Zamalek.