ERNEST “Maphepha” Sibanda — the last man to win the championship with Highlanders — is challenging current club chairman Peter Dube for the top post when elections take place on February.
After weeks of consultations, the former Warriors manager has finally decided this is the right time to return to the club management.
The elections will be held a week after the annual general meeting and the former Highlanders player yesterday confirmed that he had picked up nomination papers, filled and handed them in yesterday.
“I confirm to you today that I am going to stand for the Highlanders Football Club executive committee elections for the chairman position,” he said.
“It is a decision that I have made, but it was not easy. It was a difficult decision. The current chairman is my friend and my idol in football matters.”
The nominations close on Saturday for the post of chairman, secretary-general and committee member.
Sibanda said he wants to bring Highlanders back to the people who own it when he is voted into offices saying reports that he misappropriated money involving movement of striker Obadiah Tarumbwa to Belgium, were not true, but it was a deal that went sour.
He said the $25 000 he is alleged to have embezzled fell into many hands and he had to follow-up on the money and recoup it, paying it back to the club to save the club’s image.
Sibanda said he would not comment on reports that the Highlanders board was divided over him, saying he had not applied for any position at Bosso and would comment after he is disqualified by the nomination court.
“A lot of things might have happened during my tenure,” he said.
“There are a lot of things being said about the Obadiah issue. But people may take it the way they want. It was a deal that went bad involving third parties and I was caught in between. I never stole Bosso money. The truth will remain that I wanted to protect my club at all costs.
“I have no hard feelings. Whoever wins let’s try and protect the image of the club and whoever thinks that I did something wrong they have a right to think so. I ask for a peaceful election and even if I lose I will not change.
Sibanda added: “I will remain Highlanders. I support all those that have been appointed to the technical team. I know them. They are my boys. The technical team has been appointed by Highlanders and not an individual. Whoever comes in, let us pull up our stockings together.”
He said the call to enter the race was personal and he had been approached by a section of the Highlanders membership to contest the chairman’s post.
“The call came from me and it came from inside my heart,” he said.
“I have been following the team for a long time. I am not saying incumbents have failed. I feel where we are lacking mostly is on the field of play and the bond between players, the executive and the supporters does not exist anymore.
“That unity of purpose is lacking and I want to return that. Some members have approached me and asked me to come and stand in this election, but honestly I am going it alone, I don’t have a team.
“I want to involve members of the club in running the affairs of the club. I will stand guided by Highlanders members across the country. I want to take back the team to the people. It belongs to them. It is a community team.”
In the past few weeks, Sibanda, who had been tipped to bounce back as team manager, has been consulting and he has finally made his decision to throw in the hat for one of the hottest posts in local football.
In 2010, Maphepha was suspended from the club’s membership following Tarumbwa’s deal, but was readmitted into the club in 2012 after he sought leniency and paid back what was due to the club.
He, however, said people had been bent on bad publicity and forgetting that when the late British championship winning coach Eddie May was in the country, he benevolently offered the coach to use his personal vehicle during his tenure.
Sibanda said he went out of his way using personal resources to seek the clearance of former striker Zenzo Moyo in Botswana and had to fax the clearance for the striker to play in a crucial match against Dynamos, but all that had been forgotten.