By Mehluli Sibanda
The setting is Highlanders Sports Club, popularly known as Clubhouse, a perfect venue for the interview with Ndumiso Gumede since it is one of the properties acquired by Bosso under his chairmanship in 1987.
Popularly known in football circles as Gumz or Yours Truly, Gumede, a trained school teacher has served Highlanders in various capacities, as chairman, chief executive officer, and now as club president. He also held a number of posts at the Zimbabwe Football Association. We sat down with him as he shared his interesting life story as a teacher, football administrator, and actor.
Born on 14 October 1945 in Bulawayo at the end of the Second World War, Gumede grew up in Mzilikazi’s R square 62. His now-late parents were Sithelo Gumede and Elina Msimanga. Since his father was a teacher, he did his education at a number of schools in and around Bulawayo.
“My father was a teacher, my mother a full-time housewife. Because my dad was a teacher, every time he got transferred, we also moved, so I did some primary education here in Bulawayo, a little bit in Matshetshe and a little bit in Gwayi and completed my primary at Inyathi where I also did part of my secondary education, Form One and Form Two. For Form Three and Four I was at Bulawayo African Secondary School, now Mpopoma High School,’’ he said.
Teacher training and deployment
Gumede enrolled for teacher training at Gweru Teachers College, which is now Midlands State University. His first deployment took him to Harare where he taught at Highfields Secondary School. While he was training as a teacher, he also got skilled as a football referee.
“When I finished high school, I went to Gweru Teachers College to train as a teacher. I trained as a teacher from 1966 to 1968. When I finished training, I went and taught at Highfields Secondary School. I was a teacher of science subjects. While I was doing teacher training, I also enrolled to learn refereeing, by the time I completed my training I was already a qualified referee. I was doing mostly school games and social games,’’ said Gumede.
He was at Highfields from 1969 until 1975 when he moved to Mzilikazi High School in Bulawayo.
“I taught mathematics and sciences. I went to Highfields in 1969 and left the school in 1975. While at Highfields I was also a sports master, that’s where my love for sport came from. I was lucky to teach people like Oliver Kateya, Shackman Tauro, those were some of my students.
“After seven years at Highfields, I transferred to Mzilikazi High School in 1975. I taught at Mzilikazi and also dabbled in sport as a sports master and continued as a referee involved in inter-school games. I had to upgrade my refereeing and attended senior referees’ course, I was nurtured by Paul Pretorius and Godfrey Kandawasvika. I never went up to Premier League level,’’ he said.
First involvement with Highlanders
Gumede’s involvement with Highlanders dates back to 1974 when he was the club’s representative in the then Salisbury. When he returned to Bulawayo, Gumede was part of the Bosso finance committee before he became the club’s chairman in 1978, a position he took over from Landcut Gumbo.
“I first got involved with Highlanders when I was their representative in Harare in 1974. When I came back to Bulawayo, I served in the Highlanders finance committee under Alfred Zwambila’s wife. Zwambila ran a bar called Marisha Cocktail Bar in Old Magwegwe and he was the one who was sponsoring the club.
Appointed to first independent Zimbabwe Zifa board
Having served as Highlanders chairman from 1978 to 1980, Gumede was at independence appointed by the then Minister of Sports, Youth and Recreation, Joyce Mujuru to the first ever Zimbabwe Football Association board as a committee member. “In 1980 I got invited by Teurai Ropa Nhongo (Joice Mujuru) to the very first post-independence Zifa board as a committee member.
Prior to that, football was played along racial lines and at independence there was need to amalgamate.” Moroni Mushambadope was the Zifa chairman but he fell out of favour with the ministry and was replaced by Nelson Chirwa.
Removal from Zifa board
Gumede was in the Zifa board from 1980 until 1983 when elections were held. While he was so confident that he would retain his post, he lost out when a new committee was chosen, with his position on the board taken over by Gibson Homela.
“I served in Zifa from 1980 to 1983. In 1983 I went to Tanzania with a team called State House Tornadoes. Meanwhile, there were rumblings within Zifa, that these people who were imposed on the constituency by the ministry, when will their term end? So, we went for elections.
“Those elections were planned but leading up to those elections I had gone to Tanzania, when I came back, I was almost convinced I was going to walk into this new set up, only to get here and be told by a colleague of mine, Douglas Mkhwananzi that I stood no chance of retaining my post because while I was out there, there had been meetings to discuss persons and it was a feeling of those people that there were many people linked to Highlanders in that committee, when it was just the two of us, it was me and Douglas Mkhwananzi but they resolved that there were too many of us, only one should remain in the committee of eight. So, I lost that election and they put in Gibson Homela as a committee member,’’ Gumede recalls.
Return as Highlanders chairman
Gumede was heartbroken by his removal from the Zifa board such that he stayed away from football for a full year.
“After that I spent a whole year out of football in 1984. Meanwhile, at my former club called Highlanders Football Club, they had a white man as their chairman called Malcolm King. He was supposed to serve two years, at that time they were doing two years, not three-year term as they do now.
Malcolm King was supposed to serve from 1984 and 1985 but he left midway, he said he had enough of the troubles and problems at Highlanders. So, beginning of 1985, the club had no chairman, few people got around to say Gumede can you come and finish Malcolm’s term and I vehemently refused because football had been very unfair to me and I was still going to be operating with those same people who had thrown me out on the tribal ticket,’’ he said.
The intervention of the late former Vice President, Joshua Nkomo saw Gumede return to Highlanders to finish off King’s term as chairman.
“I am teaching at Mzilikazi High School, I get a call, you are wanted at the office, I go to the office and the call is from a guy called Joshua Nkomo. He asked me to come to his place in Pelandaba so off I went. When I got to his house, his first question was who do you think you are? That put me off a bit, I thought I always knew myself.
“Then he told me people fight to get positions in life, people want you to lead Highlanders and you are refusing, who do you think you are? I had no choice, there is no way I could go against Joshua Nkomo. While I was there, he phoned the Chronicle and spoke to a journalist David Ncube (now late), he told him I am with Gumede here, he has accepted, he says he will serve as Highlanders chairman,’’ said Gumede.
Highlanders acquiring properties
It was under Gumede’s chairmanship that Highlanders acquired three properties, that is the offices in Robert Mugabe Way and the camping house in Luveve in 1986 before they secured the Clubhouse in 1987. “When I got to Highlanders in 1978 as chairman, our offices were at Big Bhawa, as you entered Big Bhawa, the second office on your left, that’s where we were. Because all of us were part timers, during the day, there was a man there who was running a shop for sewing, at 5PM we would come in to do our meetings.
“We then decided that was not good enough (offices at Big Bhawa), we decided to relocate and got rented offices for Highlanders at CABS Building Lobengula Street. We stayed there and decided no, paying rentals was too much, with the assistance of Lawrence Phiri, who was working at John Pocock, we acquired the offices in Robert Mugabe Way in 1986,’’ recalls Gumede.
The Luveve camping house was purchased from former Highlanders treasurer, Michael Gumbo, who wanted to sell his property so he could buy something in the eastern suburbs.
“Our treasurer then was a guy called Gumbo, he wanted to sell his house in Luveve so he could buy a house in the eastern areas. His house had such a big plot, we decided let’s buy this house, there is potential here, we can camp here.
Now we have a camping place, an office and we are happy. At the camping place, we are dictating things, we were now saving money instead of going to hotels and the players are taking turns to cook,’’ Gumede said. In 1986, Gumede was given another mandate by the Highlanders members to lead the club for two years. That proved to be one of the most successful years for Highlanders when they won everything in terms of silverware except the league title.
Bosso actually wanted Queens Sports Club as their Clubhouse
Highlanders in 1987 managed to secure the Clubhouse at what used to be the Queens Sports Club Bowls section. According to Gumede, they actually had their eyes on Queens Sports Club, which now houses one of the country’s two Test cricket venues but they were offered an alternative. Highlanders had crafted a plan to take over Queens Sports Club by getting Bosso supporters to buy membership at the sports club to influence the voting process.
“We actually wanted Queens Sports Club because of the infrastructure there. We wanted to turn the cricket ground into a football pitch. We devised a plan, we were going to pay membership fees for a number of our supporters so that in a year’s time, when there are elections, we take charge. I don’t know how they picked it up.
This was not our first choice, this place used to be the Queens Bowling Club but the patronage was going down, they were preferring to use Callies so the chap we were discussing with then said we can’t give you Queens Sports Club, we have a good proposition, we came here, we liked the place and agreed to take it. We bought it and we were given a 99-year lease by the Bulawayo City Council,’’ recalls Gumede.
Return to Zifa as vice-chairman
He was to return to Zifa in 1987 when there were problems at the national association. The late former President, Canaan Banana, who was the Zifa patron had gone all over the country engaging with councillors on who they wanted to run the game.
“In 1987, there were very big problems at Zifa and the patron, the then President, Canaan Banana went the whole country engaging Zifa councillors. After that he called for a meeting at the National Sports Stadium for elections for a new committee. Chirwa was elected as chairman and I was voted in as vice chairman. Now I had to leave Highlanders, in any case it was at the end of my term.”
Gumede left teaching in 1986 when he lost out on an opportunity to become deputy headmaster at Ihlathi High School. “I applied for a position to be deputy headmaster at Ihlathi in 1986. I was called for an interview where I was interviewed by four guys. At the end of the interview, they said thank you very much Mr. Gumede, well done.
When schools opened second term, my headmaster, Cuthbert Chiromo said to me, my friend I am sorry to lose you, you will be appointed to Ihlathi as deputy head. As you prepare the timetable for the teachers, don’t put yourself,’’ Gumede said.
While he was waiting for his redeployment, he was summoned to the education director’s office where he was informed that while he was qualified for the post of deputy headmaster, someone else was being appointed instead.
“I was called to the office of the regional education director.
I was told while I qualified to be the deputy headmaster, while I did well in the interview and people were keen for me to go to Ihlathi, someone else was being appointed to that post and this chap was my junior in terms of experience. I told the regional director that I do not think the reasons he gave me were really true and I am going back to my school to resign,’’ Gumede said.
True to his word, Gumede went back to Mzilikazi High School, wrote his letter of resignation and later joined Old Mutual.
Moving back to Harare and then Botswana
Gumede worked for Old Mutual in Bulawayo before he was moved to Harare where he played a mentorship role. “I worked in Bulawayo selling insurance then Old Mutual called me to Harare and said we hear you were a brilliant teacher, we want you at our training school in Harare.” Gumede’s moving to Harare caused problems for him at Zifa since the arrangement was that the chairman had to come from the North and the vice chairman from the South.
“I told Chirwa of the problem since I was now based in Harare, he told me to keep quiet. Meanwhile, the secretary of the association was a guy called Julius Chifokoyo from Caps United. They hit a really bad patch and the company told him to leave Zifa and come back to lead Caps United so that left the association with no secretary. Chirwa told me that I was now vice chairman and acting secretary.
“At the end of 1989, there were going to be elections so I stand for elections as secretary and I give up the vice chairmanship. I was secretary until I left in 1991 and went to Botswana.” While in Botswana, Gumede, working with Lawrence Phiri assisted Notwane Football Club, which was being run like a boozer’s team to draw up a constitution since they were already experienced in football administration.
Gumede has been married twice and divorced the same number of times. His first marriage was from 1973 to 1987. He married his second wife in 1992 and they went separate ways in 1994. He has twin boys with his first wife, one son from his second marriage and another daughter with a Harare woman he had a relationship with in between his two marriages. He describes his first wife, Muriel Hlazo, who actually has a twin sister as the love of his love.
“I met my first wife here in Bulawayo, she was en route to Thekwane High School, she was a twin, they arrived at my father’s friend’s house, he had gone to Cape Town with his wife and they needed me to look after their house and these two girls were passing going to school.
“She was a student at the time and I was also a first-year student at Gweru Teachers College. I have never felt like that, I’ve been in love so many times but what I felt on that day with that woman was something else. I was very good at talking nicely to women so she fell in love with me almost immediately,’’ Gumede said.
He is pained by what his second wife, Virginia Ntuli did to him since he had left a good job at Old Mutual to follow his then better half to Botswana. Gumede’s ex wife was a nurse and she got a job at a Gaborone private hospital.
When she came back after three months, she was driving a brand-new Nissan Sentra and Gumede, who had worked for years without being able to purchase a new car decided to follow her to Botswana.
“I stayed in Botswana, unfortunately my wife found a nicer younger version of me. I left a good job at Old Mutual, had I stayed I would be a big person today. Old Mutual begged me, they said if it’s a question of salary, we can up your salary because they were holding me in high esteem as a trainer of sales people.
My wife came home on leave and when she came back to Botswana, she came with a letter from David Coltart (lawyer) saying my client wants to break up your marriage. She left me alone in a four-bedroomed house.’’
On whether he has ever entertained any thoughts of marriage, Gumede said it was pointless for him. “I’ve enjoyed my youth, I’ve enjoyed two marriages, there is no point. I am likely not getting married again.”
At the age of 75 Gumede is yet to become a grandfather.
His twin sons are aged 48 and are not yet married. His son from the second marriage is 34 and is also yet to give him a grandchild. His 31-year-old daughter just got married and that has given Gumede hopes of finally becoming a grandfather.
Return to Zifa as CEO
Gumede was in 1998 enticed to return to Zifa as the association’s first chief executive officer, a newly created position. “In 1998, I got a call from Lazarus Mhurushomana, I was still doing insurance in Botswana.
Mhurushomana told me that his job was just to find me, someone else was going to call. Frank Valdemarca phoned and told me they wanted me back at Zifa, he was the treasurer of Zifa at that time. I was offered a job to become the first CEO of the association, with an offer for a house and car. A week later, Vincent Pamire, who was the Zifa vice chairman at the time came looking for me in Gaborone and gave me the forms to sign,’’ said Gumede.
He lifts the lead again on the trickeries that took place at Zifa on his return since the position of CEO did not exist, the leadership had to sell the idea of a permanent secretary/CEO. “Since the position of CEO didn’t exist, he told me that they were going to meet as Zifa and sell the idea of a permanent secretary/CEO, if the meeting buys that, you will be the CEO, if the meeting doesn’t buy that you will stand for elections as secretary. I went for that meeting in May 1998 and that meeting endorsed that I become CEO,’’ Gumede said.
Acrimonious exit from Zifa
Gumede was later relegated to the role of administrator, with the Zifa leadership preferring “younger” guys to run the show as CEO. When a vote of no confidence was passed on former Zifa chairman Leo Mugabe, Rafik Khan was later voted as his replacement. Gumede paid the price for backing Pamire and was shown the door at Zifa when Khan and then treasurer, Cuthbert Dube allegedly said they could not trust him.
“After a vote of no confidence on Leo Mugabe, Pamire was the acting president.
“Pamire wanted to be substantive president, he was challenged by Rafiq Khan and Khan won. His treasurer was Cuthbert Dube, they called me to an office and told me they were not comfortable with my stay in 2004 because I was supporting Pamire. I told them I was even willing to leave the next day since my mother lived alone in our rural home.
They said they will pay me for my notice period and for terminating my employment before I get to a pensionable age. I was going to get a lot of money. I never got anything, my children who are in the US told me to leave the Zifa money issue alone because they will look after me,” said Gumede.
Yet another return to Zifa
Gumede made one last return to Zifa as vice president in 2010 and he is pained to have defeated Kennedy Ndebele, someone he had seen rise through the ranks at Highlanders.
“While I was sited at my home in Inyathi in 2009, Pamire came with other guys and informed me that they wanted me back as vice president of Zifa. I was elected as vice president of Zifa with Cuthbert Dube as president. I contested against Kennedy Ndebele for the vice chairmanship. I felt bad because I had seen Kennedy rise and take over at Highlanders,’’ regrets Gumede.
Sports facilities committee
Gumede served in a committee that was tasked by the late former President, Robert Mugabe to carry out an assessment of sporting facilities in the country. The committee was headed by veteran sports administrator, Tommy Sithole who is now the Zimpapers board chairman.
“One time I am called to State House, Mugabe wants an assessment of sporting facilities in the country. A committee was set up headed by Tommy Sithole, we were broken up into groups. I was assigned to do Midlands and in Gokwe we found a very nice squash court turned into a goat pan.”
Last dance with Highlanders
Gumede returned to Highlanders as CEO in 2014, served in the position until the end of 2016. In 2019, he was appointed Highlanders president, which is more of a ceremonial role.
Gumede has always been interested in acting even from Sunday school. While he was in Harare, he got involved in radio dramas written by Harry Nleya and Amon Nyamambi. “My very first big film was Xola done by Busi Dlodlo that was filmed in Harare. I was a priest, at the height of HIV, my role was to counsel a new couple on how to avoid catching the virus. More Time, it was again advocacy on sexual and reproductive health. Prudence Katomeni (now Mbofana) was my daughter, my wife was Barbara Makhalisa.
“We also did Yellow Card, Leroy Gopal was my star player who had too many girlfriends chasing him so I had to take him. Gringo was also in that film,’’ he said.
Gumede also played a part in the 1987 epic drama film, Cry Freedom, directed and produced by Richard Attenborough.
“In Bulawayo, I did Cry Freedom, it was a film on activities of South African students and I was approached by the producer, Sir Richard Atterbury. He introduced me to Dali Tambo, he talked to me a bit and told me they were looking for someone to mobilise school children for the film.
“I was given some piece of music, listened to it and quickly mastered it. I moblilised children from all the schools, got them together and asked them to sing the song. I didn’t play any part in front of the camera, I did the choreography for the uprising song,’’ Gumede fondly remembers. Gumede was also part of the hugely popular Ndebele drama, Sakhelene Zinini on the now defunct Radio Mthwakazi.
Hopes to see Bosso turn 100 years old
Formed by King Lobengula’s grandsons, Albert and Rhodes in 1926, Highlanders will turn 100 years old in 2026. Gumede’s desire is to see Highlanders turn a century old. “I wish God can keep hold me for the next five years so I can see Highlanders turn 100 years.
Hopefully improve on our stature, we have been almost stagnant, we moved a lot from being an amateur club but now we must go back to competing in the continental competitions. We rank in the same level with TP Mazembe, Enyimba, Al Ahly and Al Hilal,’’ he said.
How he wants to be remembered
Despite all his achievements, Gumede wants to be remembered as a simple school teacher who loved sport. He is grateful to football because it was his involvement in the sport which saw him travel the world.
“I am to be remembered as a simple school teacher who loved sport. I enjoyed teaching, I actually cried the day I left. Looking back that is what really opened my involvement in football.
“Prior to that, I was only content with being chairman of Highlanders. Can you imagine the number of countries I’ve visited courtesy of football, in Africa there are only 14 countries I’ve not been to.” The Sunday News