IN what could be one of the contributing factors to Highlanders’ dismal performance in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season, the Bulawayo giants are yet to pay most of their players signing on fees for this year. Impeccable sources at the club revealed that no player at the club has received any signing on fee, a situation that has made it difficult for the club executives to enter into contract negotiations with the players ahead of next season.
Most of the players have their contracts running out at the end of 2015 and Highlanders have a tough task in trying to convince them to commit to the club for next season. One of the players whose agreement with Amahlolanyama expires this year is the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League joint leading goal scorer Knox Mutizwa, a Bosso junior product who is already understood to be targeted by local and foreign clubs.
Highlanders’ chairman Peter Dube chose to be calm when asked about the issue of Mutizwa’s expiring contract and the fact that the club had not met its end of the deal.
Speaking on the day he announced the sacking of the Bongani Mafu led technical department at the club offices on 3 September, Dube vowed that they will do everything to keep their prized possession.
“We will try playing it as safe as possible for the club, it is not only Knox whose contract is expiring at the end of the year, there are a number of them. All efforts will be made to try and entice him,’’ promised Dube.
Midfielder Welcome Ndiweni quit Highlanders during the mid-season transfer window and is now on the books of ambitious Division One side Bulawayo City while striker Ozias Zibande also walked out on Highlanders at the expiry of his contract and is now turning out for Botswana side Gaborone United.
Ndiweni chose to forfeit what the club owed him in terms of signing on fees for him to get released from the remainder of his arrangement with Bosso.
Highlanders’ chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede said they were part paying what they could whenever funds became available.
He attributed the situation the club finds itself in to the withdrawal of part of the sponsorship by their main sponsors BancABC. The club was given funds by the bank for signing on fees for 2014 but the financial institution slashed their support to Bosso and Dynamos in November.
That means the burden of signing on fees has gone back to the two clubs with BancABC meeting the costs of salaries for both players and the technical staff.
“Please tell me the source of funds in the light of the fact that the budget was withdrawn by our sponsors late November. We are clearing them one by one as funds become available. Answers to your questions can only be answered in consultation with the finance committee that handles the disbursements,’’ said Gumede.
Players whose identity we will protect for fear of victimisation said no one has been paid a cent for signing on fees for this season. They disclosed that every time they ask about the money, they were told that the club did not have the funds to pay what they owed them.