The Premier League Assembly set for the Grand Palm Hotel this Saturday holds the key to whether BPL CEO Bennett Mamelodi leaves for good or stays on in the position from which he resigned on Monday.
Mamelodi tendered his resignation after a tumultuous time as the head of the premier league secretariat where he has accused his employers of making his work a living hell. Soon after receiving the letter, and after taking time to consider the reasons of the CEO’s resignation, premier league chairperson Arnold Somolekae met with Mamelodi to plead with him to reconsider his stance and return to the office. Unconfirmed reports also say Botswana Football Association (BFA) president Tebogo Sebego went cap in hand to the beleaguered CEO to ask him to back down on his request to leave. Whatever happened from these pleas, Mamelodi has continued to be in office this week, preparing for the Wednesday Mascom Top 8 Awards, this Saturday’s Premier League Assembly and the beMOBILE Premier League Awards taking place later on Saturday evening at the GICC.
Mamelodi has however refused to shed light on his next move even after the football leadership attempted to coax him into withdrawing his resignation letter, but at the end of Saturday’s assembly, it will perhaps be clearer what his future holds as the gathering could eventually decide what must be done. At the assembly, he is expected to face his employers – the 16 premier league club chairpersons who constitute the BPL Board of Governors – and give them a report that sums up the just ended season. Some in the board who hate his guts will be hoping it is the last time they see him, while others who still believe in his abilities will wish he continues as their servant. It has been a divided board that even elected chairperson Somolekae and Vice Chairman Mojaki Monnakgotla along factional affiliation – and the factions are built around those who still want Mamelodi as CEO and those who want to see his back.
At the time leading to the BPL elections that saw Somolekae eventually take over the reigns against another candidate Fidelis Nkomazana, it was an open secret that chairpersons were going to vote on these faction lines. Chairpersons representing BDF XI, Gaborone United, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, Extension Gunners, BMC, Police XI and Nico United reportedly wanted a chairperson who would see to it that Mamelodi quits the premier leagues secretariat this year. These are the board members who thus supported the candidacy of Gaborone United’s Nkomazana as BPL chairperson and Solomon Mantswe of Police XI as his assistant. The rest of the pack supported the candidacy of Notwane’s Somolekae as BPL chairperson and Monnakgotla Mojaki of FC Satmos as his assistant. At ballot count, Somolekae and Mojaki each received 9 votes while Nkomazana and Mantswe were each voted by 7 clubs.
To date, and ahead of the weekend’s assembly, the factions still exist. However, there are fresh reports of an interesting allegiance shift with Police XI and Gunners reportedly going softer on Mamelodi while Satmos and Notwane seem to be adding to the group of board members frustrating the CEO. Those close to the premier league’s internal strife reveal that Somolekae’s request that Mamelodi should stay on is only meant for ensuring work is not left hanging rather than to suggest he still supports him. The CEO reportedly showed defiance to his two bosses on a number of issues they had expected he would favour their clubs. Strangely, these are the same two men who have stood through thick and thin with Mamelodi, protecting and defending him against all evil intents from some board members - until matters arose that saw the CEO differ with them. A board meeting called on Sunday to discuss the Sankoyo Bush Bucks matter seems to be last straw broke his cool – he found himself alienated with not many supporting his views and out of frustration, he decided it was best he resigned.
His beef is that ever since he started enhancing the functionality of the BPL office and introducing some gate-keeping reforms for the league, he has created enemies within the board. In previous interviews, he has stated that his time at the BPL has been rough, with evidence that some people wanted to drive him to the edge and make him quit. He started as CEO of the premier league on April 1, 2012 but was offered a formal contract later in November - but in a report he made to the board in January this year at the Grand Palm Hotel, he stated his displeasure at being made to work under difficult conditions by the same people who appointed him CEO, and challenged them to change their attitude for the success of the league. After enumerating the things he had done to place the premier league in a better position, he told the premier league club’s chairpersons then: “But it’s up to you gentlemen. Today you have the power to determine and define the future of the BPL. You can either embrace the progress we have made or you can destroy it. It’s up to you.” Such was the tone of a man on the brink of giving up against what he perceived as sabotage and a deliberate ploy to present him as a failure even when evidence before his bosses showed otherwise.
In that January meeting where he faced the board members and challenged them to prove how he had failed, to which they never responded, he told of how he had brought trust and accountability systems in the premier league which before then, never existed. He alluded to a deficit of P4.2 million he found from previous years, which he was able to bring down to P500 000. “Today your commercial partners trust you with their money, but sadly you don’t trust me to administer that money. I have instead found myself being subjected to abuse, threats of being fired, lack of trust and everything that is inconsistent with the credibility that I have generated for your league,” he told them then.
In the Monday resignation letter received by BPL chairperson Somolekae, a copy of which BG Sport is in possession, he continues to allude to these statements he made in January. “Yesterday’s (Sunday of the board meeting) Board of Governors meeting and other cantankerous activities since the Board meeting of 10 January 2015 have led me to conclude that nothing will ever change. I cannot and will not stand by and watch this deliberate and calculated destruction of the BPL,” he said in the Monday letter received by BPL chairperson Somolekae.
It thus remains to be seen how events will turn out this Saturday at the league’s assembly where the matter of his resignation could be discussed. The spotlight will now be on the clubs which through their chairmen, could decide if they still want their league to run with Mamelodi as its CEO. Those vying for his exit were last year reported to be thinking of the likes of renowned sports administrators Thabo Styles Ntshinogang and Kagiso Kitso Kemoeng to replace him. It is not clear if these are the men they still want as their CEOs.