The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
FOOTBALL legend, Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda, who died last Tuesday at the age of 63 was laid to rest at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo yesterday with different speakers describing him as a man of peace, a unifier as well as a humble person who empowered many youths through football.
Sibanda, a former Highlanders and Caps United player, team manager as well as chairman passed away at Mater Dei Hospital last Tuesday after a lengthy battle against diabetes. The ex-Zimbabwe Warriors team manager is survived by wife, Siboniso Ndlovu, eight children, namely Bongani, Gugulethu, Nokuthula, Jacqueline, Nozipho, Liqhwa, Mthokozisi and Nomagugu.
Speaking at a service held at the Bulawayo Amphitheatre, the Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Judith Ncube, told mourners that as the Zanu-PF leadership in the province they were working tirelessly to ensure that the late Sibanda gets his recognition as a hero.
On the day Maphepha died, Bulawayo City chairman, Jerry Sibanda wrote to Zanu-PF Bulawayo Province requesting that the football legend be accorded national hero status. Ncube, a former neighbour of Maphepha in Emakhandeni said they were working with Zanu-PF Politburo member, Tshinga Dube and the local leadership to make sure that he gets his hero status. Dube was present at the funeral service.
“He played his role, he did his part, we are so proud of him, we have to emulate his good works. Our wish as Bulawayo is to push that he is recognised as a hero, I will push with my colleagues so that he is recognised. Whenever they went to other countries, they always raised the flag high, the flag of the nation. We will assist Comrade Tshinga so that the wishes of the people are fulfilled,’’ said Ncube.
She said Sibanda’s death was a great loss not only for Bulawayo and Matabeleland but for Zimbabwe as a whole. She said Bulawayo people across board should seek unity.
“He was my neighbour in Emakhandeni, we used to envy the life he lived, how he looked after his family. It’s a great loss for Bulawayo, the Matabeleland region and Zimbabwe. As people of Bulawayo, we have so much hatred for one another, we don’t even know what we are fighting for, as people of Bulawayo let’s learn to put our heads together as a family. By so doing, we will be able to achieve a lot of things,’’ she said.
Sibanda’s daughter, Gugulethu described how close she and her father were to an extent that they spoke about anything.
“We called each other mate because we were best mates, we were friends, our conversations were sometimes strange that you would wonder if he was talking to his daughter or his girlfriend or is it a friend. Nothing was out of bounds, we spoke about everything,’’ Gugulethu said.
The United Kingdom-based Gugulethu recalled how her father taught her how to drive at the age of 14.
“My dad taught me how to drive when I was 14. I remember when I crashed my mum’s car when my dad was teaching me how to rave a car. I remember my dad teaching me how to play football as much as it wasn’t something I wanted to do, he did his level best to try and make me like him, but he accepted that I was different, I was a girl not a boy,’’ she reminisced.
Gugulethu said her father encouraged her and was never negative even on occasions when she did not do well at school.
“My dad was very humble, was very kind, there was nothing I would do in his eyes that was bad, even if I failed at school my dad would tell me my child you’ve done well, he was always positive. No matter what you say about him, he will never tell you to fight, instead he would try and make peace with everything. I don’t know how I will live the rest of my life without my dad, he made everything easy for me. I stand before you broken,’’ Gugulethu said.
Former Zimbabwe Football Association of Zimbabwe vice-president, Omega Sibanda, who is also MP for Vungu constituency and a close friend of Maphepha, said the former Bosso team manager was a unifier.
“I liken Maphepha to great people in the world, if you say Ernest you say sincere. Ernest was a peace loving somebody, one person I cannot compare with anyone else. We know what he did for football. He left a legacy. Ernest was famous for winning championships, for unifying people,’’ Sibanda said.
The Vungu Member of Parliament told the gathering that Maphepha played a great part in his 2018 election victory.
“Personally, I am an MP because of Maphepha, he campaigned for me in Vungu and I thank him, I moved with Ernest the length and breadth of Vungu and we won the election, the President of this country won in Vungu, I am proud of that,’’ Omega said.
Former Highlanders striker, Zenzo Moyo spoke of how Maphepha imparted important life lessons to them on and off the field.
“He didn’t teach us just to win championships, he taught us to have our own families, we are proud of him, that’s why we tried to celebrate him while he was still alive,’’ Moyo said.
Another former Highlanders player, Gift Lunga(Junior) said had it not been Maphepha, some of them could have ended up in prison.
“He taught us football from grassroots, we grew up under his care and made it into the first team at Highlanders where we won four championships in a row, it was because of him, he taught us about life. Had it not been football and Maphepha, we could be in prison. Maphepha helped a lot in our lives, whatever he taught us, we also want to teach up and coming stars,’’ Lunga Jnr said.
Njube-Lobengula MP, Gift Banda, who owned Njube Sundowns, described Maphepha as a man of excellence as shown by the success he enjoyed in all the institutions where he was involved. Bulawayo Mayor, Clr Solomon Mguni outlined how it did not become a challenge for the city to accord Maphepha a civic honour because of his role in the development of sport.
“He contributed immensely to the growth and development of sport in Bulawayo, it was never a problem when the Bulawayo City Council made a decision that he be accorded a civic honour and laid to rest at Lady Stanley Cemetery, our own heroes’ acre in Bulawayo,’’ Mguni said.
Former Highlanders player and team manager, Lawrence Phiri recalled how he signed Maphepha ahead of a match in Gweru when senior players had gone on strike.
“I am the one who signed Maphepha to play for Highlanders, all the players had gone on strike when we had a game in Gweru. He was new, we worked the whole night looking for players from other teams and we drew 2-2. He was the only senior player, that’s when I saw how humble he is, how intelligent, he listened to instructions,’’ Phiri said.
He lamented the continued exclusion of former players from administration roles, which he attributed to the belief that they did not have much to contribute after their playing days, something which he said was not correct. No member of the current Highlanders leadership were given a platfrom at Maphepha’s funeral service in respect of his wishes. Highlanders executive committee chairman, Johnfat Sibanda, treasurer Donald Ndebele and committee member Mgcini Mafu were, however, present at the service. — @Mdawini_29. (See also Sunday Life page 4)