Zim foot­ball loses two leg­ends: Sibanda, Mh­langa

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Love­more Dube Sport cor­re­spon­dent

ONCE again death stealth­ily moved into our midst and stole two petals, one prom­i­nent in Zim­babwe foot­ball and the other in so­cial soc­cer cir­cles in Bu­l­awayo.

I am re­fer­ring to the death of High­landers Foot­ball Club bene­fac­tors Jonathan Themba Mh­langa and Lucky “Gearbox” Sibanda.

Both were Bosso Life Mem­bers whose con­tri­bu­tion to the Bu­l­awayo and Zim­bab­wean gi­ants is known to all those close to the in­sti­tu­tion over the last 53 years. Sadly the Hall of Fame Con­cept is tak­ing too long to take off in Zim­babwe with ad­min­is­tra­tors pre­oc­cu­pied with fights.

Sibanda was so pas­sion­ate about the game. He played for Old Mu­tual So­cial Foot­ball Club in the 1980s and 1990s. He then moved to Izin­sizwa but he dis­tin­guished him­self with his non-par­ti­san stance on High­landers mat­ters.

Sibanda was good to most club ad­min­is­tra­tions of the past 20 years. Where he felt they were go­ing off the rails he did not mince his words, he would speak out be­cause of his undy­ing love for the club. Bosso meant so much to him. It was a part of his life.

Foot­ball has one weak­ness. In most in­stances praises are sung of Omafik­i­zolo, a ma­jor­ity of them self-seek­ers who do not even un­der­stand the his­tory of the club and the peo­ple whom they are sup­posed to be serv­ing.

In the self-ag­gran­dis­ing mode, gen­uine peo­ple who have served in­sti­tu­tions with dis­tinc­tion are for­got­ten. There is a feel­ing that High­landers FC’s ex­is­tence started as soon as So and So came into power and be­fore them there were no thought pro­cesses at all.

Peo­ple like ‘J Themba’ as I had grown up know­ing Mh­langa from the 1970s, sac­ri­ficed their busi­nesses for the club. He sac­ri­ficed his own chil­dren for this big club which at some stage used to camp at his Tsha­bal­ala home.

So when the boys slept at his house, there had to be Plan B for his chil­dren, a sit­u­a­tion no kid likes. Len­nox and his sib­lings had no choice, it was the way it had to be.

Mh­langa was sched­uled for a long owed interview where his son Len­nox and my­self had to play a part.

For four years Len­nox and my­self could not get to agree on the con­ve­nient day to cap­ture him on DVD for the club and gen­er­a­tions to ap­pre­ci­ate his sac­ri­fices be­cause of the busy work­loads each one of us has.

We wanted him to tell his own story about High­landers, his sac­ri­fices for this coun­try and South Africa. In the late 1980s, it was not a sur­prise to see some ANC heavy­weights who in­clude for­mer South African Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki at koJ Themba in Lu­veve hav­ing a braai and a chat with Mh­langa.

He is a hero in all re­spects and de­serves life recog­ni­tion.

The idea of a DVD about him was hatched out of the de­sire to hon­our our own. There tends to be a habit of speak­ing glow­ingly when one has passed on yet in his liv­ing days, he would have been for­got­ten.

The Chron­i­cle a few years ago pro­filed his sports his­tory where he spoke pas­sion­ately about the club and his in­volve­ment which dated to the late 1950s as a sup­porter.

But fol­low­ing the Big Three Foot­ball Club and the rise of Co­bras, the first splin­ter club from High­landers in 1963, Mh­langa is cred­ited with not only fund­ing the club and ad­min­is­ter­ing it but was among those who stood guard and en­sured younger play­ers were re­cruited to form the back­bone of Bosso.

Since those 1960s, High­landers is renowned for the best de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme in the land and struc­tures that al­low ac­count­abil­ity with an an­nual gen­eral meet­ing and au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ments.

Thanks to peo­ple like Mh­langa, later gen­er­a­tions of Bosso fans have found a team to call home.

It is their chal­lenge too to play their part into the next 50 years with lots of sac­ri­fices far big­ger than those of the last 90 years.

By day the club’s future looks bleak be­cause of fi­nan­cial hard­ships. Mh­langa, a foun­tain of wis­dom at the club, was the first sup­port­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion boss in 1968 and rose to or­gan­is­ing sec­re­tary in the fi­nan­cially trou­bled days of 1974.

He worked in the club’s fundrais­ing com­mit­tees and at one time in 1974 wrote off a debt of 2,000 Pounds which High­landers owed his fam­ily.

Among the chair­per­sons Mh­langa worked with at Bosso; are Christo­pher Zwam­bila, Mt­shena Sidile, Land­cart Gumpo, Si­las Ndlovu, Ndu­miso Gumede, Josiah Dube, Vic Naik, Wy­att Mpofu, Njini Moyo, James Mang­wana-Tshuma, Roger Muhlwa, Ernest Sibanda, Dou­glas Mk­wananzi, Mal­com King, Eli­jah Ng­wane, Themba Ndlela, Kennedy Nde­bele and Peter Dube.

He was also at the fore­front of form­ing the South Zone Soc­cer League at the be­gin­ning of 1977, pulling out of the John Madz­ima led Rhode­sia Na­tional Foot­ball League.

Bosso and the na­tion are poorer fol­low­ing the death of a tire­less cadre.

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