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The best ZIFA president we never had

By Robson Sharuko

Either through our sheer ignorance, youthful innocence or just raw exuberance, we actually thought teachers didn’t die, back in the days when we were kids.

Former Bosso chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede
Former Bosso chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede

Somehow, we even believed that, unlike the rest of us, they were gifted with the power of eternal life, supermen and women, who lived forever.

A special group of individuals, a chosen crop of human beings, who would still be there, when the world eventually comes to an end.

For some reason, our wayward beliefs were not helped by the fact that, during a huge chunk of our childhood, none of our teachers died.

By the time we arrived to begin our Grade One classes, at Dalny Primary School, in Chakari, the headmaster was still Mr JT Mutendereki.

Even up to now, I still have to address him as mister.

And, by the time we left, to start our secondary school studies, seven years later, the good old man was still the headmaster at the primary school we were leaving behind.

We had known him to be the headmaster, for as long as we could remember, at about three or four years, when our senses could now see the difference, in hierarchy, when it comes to the teaching profession.

He was a tough old school headmaster, probably not as educated as the new crop of teachers who had arrived on the scene after him, but there was no questioning his authority.

We called him Mupandakosi, which in the native language dominant in our little mining town meant the one without the neck because, at times, it was hard to pick out what joined his head to the rest of his body.

He was quite a big man, a fountain of wisdom and an oasis of knowledge, his loyalty to the school, and its pupils, was unquestionable.

Guiding us, through the challenges of the first seven years of our education, was something he considered to be the ultimate mission of his life.

And, he did it with the kind of passion, which probably kissed the edges of obsession, a strict disciplinarian, when we lost our way, but a loving and caring man, when we got it right.

Some say he lives to this day, something which I haven’t confirmed but, whatever the case, he is a man whose huge impact, on our lives, will never be erased.

For our Grade Six class, his amazing powers to console, comfort and guide, came amid personal tragedy on the one occasion our wayward belief that teachers didn’t die, was shattered, in such cruel fashion.

Our teacher, Mr Marumha, the one we had met in Grade Six, and was supposed to shepherd us into Grade Seven, was killed in a car crash as he drove home one evening from a trip to Chegutu.

You can imagine how we were all shattered, our collection of 11-and-12-year-olds, who had grown believing teachers didn’t die, to be hit by this very personal tragedy.

That he used to beat us so badly as a way to teach us became irrelevant in our hour of collective grief and, together, as a class, we mourned the tragic loss of our teacher.

Around that time, at Mzilikazi High School, there was a teacher who also dreamt of becoming a headmaster which, to him, would have been the ultimate recognition and reward for a life spent educating scores of kids.

He had been teaching since 1969, when he arrived at Highfield High School straight from Gweru Teachers College and, even to this day, he says it was the honour of his life to teach the likes of Shackman Tauro and Oliver Kateya.

They were students at the famous school in Highfield, an institution which has produced its fair share of local football stars, including Olympique Lyon forward, Tino Kadewere.

He was the sportsmaster, at the time Tauro and Kateya were raw schoolboy talents, battling to improve their game and nursing their teenage dreams.

His name is Ndumiso Gumede, he was just 24, when he arrived at Highfield High.

He had previously spent all his life in his hometown, Bulawayo, where he was born, in Mzilikazi’s R Square 62, on October 14, 1945.

And, in Gweru, where he underwent his teachers training course, between 1966 and 1968.

A ROMANCE, WITH BOSSO, MADE IT HEAVEN

A man born to have an eternal love affair with his hometown club, Highlanders, and to have a distinguished career as a public servant of football, in his country, Gumede became the Bosso representative, in Harare, in 1974.

Now, 47 years later, he is still a humble and loyal servant of his beloved Bosso, in what is probably the greatest love affair, still subsisting, between a man, and his club, in domestic football.

It’s a special relationship which has stood the test of time, with Gumede serving in almost every portfolio of the club’s leadership — from being their representative in the capital to becoming club chairman.

Maybe, it’s something which comes from his time as a teacher, where loyalty, and commitment to transform students is a big part of what keeps many in the trenches, even though there are no rich financial rewards.

Today, he holds the role of Bosso president and says his prayer, to God, is to ensure he lives the next five years so that he will be there, when Highlanders turn 100, in 2026.

When Gumede turned one, in 1946, a year after the end of World War II, Bosso marked the 20th anniversary of their establishment.

He will be 81, if his dream comes true, and lives to see his beloved club celebrate its grand Centenary, in just five years’ time.

His first stint as Bosso chairman came in 1978 when he was still a teacher at Mzilikazi High School.

And, he left in 1980, when he was asked by the Ministry of Sports to bring his service to a national level, by joining the new ZIFA board, under Moroni Mushambadope.

After losing a bid to retain his place on that ZIFA board, in 1983, in controversial fashion, Gumede was so upset he took a full year’s break from football.

What hurt him was the manner in which his exit was engineered, by some people who made wild claims there were too many Bosso leaders on that ZIFA board, even though it was only Gumede and Douglas Mkhwananzi.

But, you can’t keep a good man down and, at the beginning of 1985, Malcolm King left his post, as Highlanders chairman, before his term had expired, saying he had been overwhelmed by the challenges at the club.

A window was opened and, among a huge constituency of the Bosso faithful, there was only one man who could be persuaded to fit into those shoes.

However, with the psychological wounds of how his bid to retain his post, on the ZIFA board, had been thwarted, still yet to heal, football didn’t possess the charm, which it used to have in the past, to lure him back into its fold.

So, he continued his love affair with teaching, until one day, a phone call came through, which changed everything, for both the club and its faithful servant.

“I’m teaching at Mzilikazi High School, I get a call, you are wanted at the office,’’ Gumede told journalist, Mehluli Sibanda, of our sister newspaper, the Sunday News, in probably the best article, written about his life and times.

“I go to the office and the call is from a guy called Joshua Nkomo (the late Vice President). 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. 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.’”

And, with that, his reunion with Bosso, in terms of serving them in administrative structures, was sealed and, as they say, the rest is history.

It proved a masterstroke, as under Gumede’s leadership, Highlanders, who were by then homeless, despite their grand status, acquired three major properties in Bulawayo.

The club offices along Robert Mugabe Way, and the camping house in Luveve, commonly known as Hotel California, were acquired in 1986 while the clubhouse was secured the following year.

It was a significant investment and, for some, it was also the year the Bosso bandwagon finally rolled onto the top table of local football, where they remain to this day.

After all, it was also the year Mercedes Sibanda became the first Highlanders player to be crowned Soccer Star of the Year, succeeding the great Moses Chunga, as the top footballer in the country.

Until then, this award had been handed out 18 times, since 1969, and no Bosso player had won it, with only Moses Moyo, of Zimbabwe Saints, being the only star, based in Bulawayo, to win it, in 1974.

Incredibly, George Shaya had five gongs, during that period, Stanley Ndunduma had two, and goalkeeper Japhet M’parutsa had also won it.

But, now, the tide had turned and after Rambo won it, in ’87, players from the City of Kings took it home on four other occasions, in the next six years.

Ephraim Chawanda (’88), Peter Ndlovu (’90), Peter Ndlovu (’91) and Agent Sawu (’93) all captured the gong, after Rambo opened the doors for them, in 1987.

THE BEST ZIFA PRESIDENT WE NEVER HAD

The previous year, Gumede left his beloved teaching profession, after exactly 20 years, spent either as a student teacher or a teacher, under a cloud of frustration.

He was so sure he would land the deputy headmaster job at Ihlati High School but was shocked to learn that a very junior teacher in terms of experience ended up being preferred for the post.

That sense of rejection for a profession he had served with distinction, devoured his soul, shattered his beliefs in the system and he handed in his resignation and left to join Old Mutual.

After returning to ZIFA, in 1987, as vice-chairman to Nelson “Jumbo Jet’’ Chirwa, he was elected secretary-general two years later before leaving for Botswana in 1991 to be with his wife, who had relocated there.

When his wife filed for divorce after she found “a nicer younger version of me,’’ it marked the collapse of his second marriage.

With his twin boys from his first marriage, a son from his second and a daughter from a relationship he had with a woman in Harare, the collapse of his second marriage virtually ended his interest in romantic issues.

Romance’s loss was football’s ultimate gain and, since then, Gumede, the man also known as “Yours Truly,’’ has done nothing else but serve football.

He is probably the most authoritative football mind in this country today, a man who has gone through it all in a public service which began even before Peter Ndlovu was born.

The greatest Warrior of all-time will, God willing, celebrate his 49th birthday, in just three months’ time.

It’s an indictment of our game that such a man like Gumede, with so much knowledge of the game, could only be accommodated, as a running mate, in Cuthbert Dube’s bid for the ZIFA presidency, in 2010.

It’s an insult to the gods of football that such a man, whose rich and impressive CV shows the acquisition of three properties for Highlanders, during his time as the club chairman, has to be pushed into the shadows of Dube, in the politics of our game’s landscape.

It’s a shame to all of us that such a tried-and-tested leader, with a background which shows he can deliver, had to agree to a coalition, as a junior partner, in the leadership of a game, which he started leading, when Dube was nowhere near its fields.

In short, Ndumiso Gumede is the best ZIFA president we never had.

Our kids will judge us harshly, for destroying their game, because, in our moments of either weakness and selfishness, we somehow found Cuthbert Dube to be a better candidate, to lead our football, with a man like Gumede playing the backbencher role.

We all should consider ourselves to be the merchants of destruction, the blind messengers of the Devil and the agents of turmoil, to even consider that any other man could stand toe-to-toe with Gumede, in terms of having the qualities to be our national game’s leader.

That we found it even fashionable to give him the role of ZIFA vice-president, a position he had held way back in 1987, rather than let him finally graduate into the role of being the leader, was either an exhibition of our madness or our recklessness.

It’s what is dragging our beloved game into its grave.

There appears to be some unwritten rule, within local football, that the ZIFA vice-president, has to come from Bulawayo while the association’s leader has to come from Harare, even if he is hopeless and clueless.

I have been spending hours going through the ZIFA constitution and there is no clause which calls for such an arrangement.

I found it ironic that when the Warriors finally ended their 23-year wait to qualify for the AFCON finals in 2003, ZIFA were under the leadership of Vincent Pamire.

He is a Bulawayo fellow, a Zimbabwe Saints man at club level, and a football leader at national level.

Then, just before the AFCON finals started, in Tunisia in 2004, they ganged up against him, threw him out and brought in another fellow from Harare, Rafiq Khan, to lead ZIFA.

Even Gift Banda, the Bulawayo-based football official, who was elected ZIFA vice-president in 2018, was only allowed to serve for a month before he was thrown out of the board.

Three years later, he is still waiting for his case to be resolved, for justice to be served.

Of course, Banda was never a teacher but Gumede used to be one.

And, unlike in our confusion brought about by either sheer ignorance, or youthful innocence, back in the days when we were kids, we now know teachers are mere mortals.

And, just like all of us, eventually, they also die.

Maybe, that’s what they are waiting for, in Gumede’s case, for them to stampede to his final resting place, talk about how great he was as a football servant, yet they frown upon him right now.

At least, thank God, the guys at Sakunda Holdings promised him something to thank him for a life spent serving our game.

And, my good old friend, Nodumo Nyathi, has been spearheading a campaign to honour him, in one way or another, for his services to Bosso in particular and football, in general.

It’s the least this great son of Zimbabwean football deserves.

To God Be The Glory!

Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.

Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ronaldoooooooooooooooooo! The Herald

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