By Vusumuzi Dube
Highlanders Football Club could pay the price for illegally sub-letting part of their clubhouse to house a braai centre with the land owners, Bulawayo City Council, considering terminating the lease.
The club leased out part of the clubhouse to Bulawayo socialite and broadcaster Babongile Sikhonjwa in 2018, which saw the establishment of Hlabangana Lounge braai facility a year later that was eventually closed after operating for five months, after the intervention of the local authority.
According to the latest council report, the Bosso clubhouse is part of a number of sports facilities owned by the local authority, which they were considering terminating the leases as their clients were violating the terms of the agreements by engaging in unsanctioned activities.
Other sports clubs that could be affected include Queens Sports Club, Hartsfield Rugby Ground, Bulawayo Athletic Cub and Busters Sports Club.
“It was noted that council-leased sports clubs were engaging in unauthorised activities such as live shows and ‘tshisa nyama’ (braai spots) which caused nuisances for residents in the neighbourhoods of the facilities. Residents complained of noise, disturbance of peace, rowdy behaviour and other nuisances.
“The view of the department was that council have a re-look at the lease agreements at an inter-departmental meeting led by housing and community services department to map a way forward with the view of either regularising some of the activities or cancellation of leases.
“The sports clubs that have been noted to be having these unauthorised activities are Highlanders Sports Club, Queens Sports Club, Hartsfield Sports Club, BAC and Busters Sports Club,” reads part of the report.
Queens, established in 1894 is home to the only Test cricket pitch in the city. Hartsfield, an international rugby venue leased out to the Bulawayo Metropolitan Rugby Football Board sub-lets part of the premises to 3D events which operates Hartsfield Tshisanyama, which has been a contentious issue over the years with the council threatening to demolish the tent erected in between the two pitches.
BAC and Busters both have multi-purpose sports facilities but have sublet part of their properties to nightclub owners — BAC Leisure and Smokehouse respectively.
“Almost all Sports Clubs had deviated from their original purpose and now sold beer and braai which now was a problem to the city. Noisy clubs to be sent violation of lease letters. Departments had agreed to address the situation as a team.
“They would visit the clubs as one team to effect the by-laws. Failure by the clubs to adhere to the by-laws would result in the cancellation of their lease agreements. Lawlessness was prevailing in the city mostly caused by illegal activities. Such behaviour compelled people not to comply with regularities,” reads the council report.
When Highlanders Hlabangana Lounge was initially closed, council senior public relations officer, Nesisa Mpofu revealed that Bosso were on the verge of losing their occupancy of the land as they were in violation by sub-letting to a third party.
“The City of Bulawayo initiated the closure of Hlabangana Lounge. The reason being that the lounge was an illegal activity as it was not authorised by council. The lounge was operating on council land which was leased to Highlanders Football for Amateur Sports.
“It came to our attention that Highlanders had actually sub-let part of the land to Hlabangana Lounge which is a violation of the terms and conditions, which alone is enough grounds to terminate the Highlanders lease,” said Mpofu.
Highlanders have been leasing the clubhouse, which houses two sports bars, two training grounds, a basketball pitch for close to 40 years from the city council. Sunday News