GABERONE — Many Zimbabwean footballers consider the Botswana be Mobile Premier League either as a viable alternative to a move to South Africa or as a gateway to the Absa Premiership.
This has seen Zimbabwean players trekking into the diamond-rich country in droves, only to realise “not all that glitters is gold”.
Issues of non-payment of salaries by clubs continue to be a staple of football gossip columns in Botswana.
The be Mobile Premier League is home to about 25 Zimbabwean players and a significant number of them have, at some stage, “bore the brunt” of clubs reneging on contracts.
And last week the matter was pushed to the fore when international media reported former Bafana Bafana stars Bennedict “Tso” Vilakazi and Manqoba “Shakes” Ngwenya were grounded in Gaborone after their club Notwane failed to shell out their dues for the last three months.
Also marooned by the same club were two of their Zimbabwean teammates — Thulani Moyo and Raphael Kutinyu. Their situation portrays the plight of most footballers who cross the Ramokgwebana River in search of greener pastures.
And Moyo says he’s done with Botswana football after the recent experience.
“I’m going back home because here when it’s time for payment there are always stories,” the ex-Mwana Africa star said.
Former Railstars striker, Fortune Nyambosi, who had a two-season stint with Notwane, said Botswana carries wretched memories for him. In fact, the candid striker said the Botswana league is run like a “spaza shop”.
He arrived at the club popularly known as Toronto with high hopes in 2007. But his dreams soon evaporated when club officials reneged on their promises.
“I was promised a signing-on fee which I never saw until I left,” he said, adding they could go for four months without salaries. At the time, their salaries were pegged between P800 and P6 000.
Nyambosi revealed there were days when they did not have any food.
“We had to beg the club’s supporters for money. I remember a lady called Cecilia Radisigo who used to help us all the time,” the Cape Town-based forward said.
Moyo, went through the same experience at Extension Gunners. Sadly, his Zimbabwean compatriot, Desire Bafana, who replaced him at Gunners last season, has not been spared the brunt.
The former Piggott Maskew defence stalwart recently dumped the club because of monetary issues.
However, he later retraced his steps after an Indian businessman agreed to honour all his dues. Footballers’ Union of Botswana president, Mmoni “States” Segopolo admits the situation will be negative to the growth of the game.
The Botswana national team manager added: “It’s a very bad situation because they (Zimbabweans) do not have anywhere to go or anything to eat when they are not paid.”
Segopolo said the union had also dealt with injured foreign players who were neglected by clubs.
Zimbabwe Saints defender Nkosilathi Dube spent five seasons in Botswana before returning home early this season. He and Mandla Sibanda, still at Ecco City, won the championship with the Francistown club in 2006 under Barry Daka. Dube went on to play for GNT and BR Highlanders.
The man nicknamed Rambo saw no reason why Zimbabweans should continue trekking to Botswana.
“In terms of money, there is a big difference because they (in Botswana) do not pay winning bonuses while Zimbabwean clubs do,” he said.
“On payment issues, I struggled at BR Highlanders and GNT, but Ecco was quite stable because they had a good sponsor.”
Presently, Mthandazo Mathonsi of Miscellaneous XI is crying foul over non-payment. Itai Gwandu and Sageby Sandaka fought Gaborone United over the non-payment of bonuses after winning the league in 2009. The bad trend has not only affected players, but coaches have also wrestled the same demon.
After leading Mochudi Centre Chiefs to two successive titles, Madinda Ndlovu had to run from one office to the other to get his payment. In fact, recent reports were that the new Township Rollers coach, was taking his former employers to court over a P100 000 debt.
His predecessor at Chiefs, Rahman Gumbo, also left the club under a cloud three years ago with indications he was owed quite a significant amount of money. Back in 2009, Gishon Ntini had to take Flamingo Santos to court over unpaid salaries. Maxwell Moyo also found himself in a similar predicament after leading Extension Gunners to a Coca-Cola Cup triumph.