The Servants of Sport: A tribute to Southern Africa sports leaders


There are two kinds of leadership in sport. There are those who come to add value to sport. These are the servant-leader variety, effective team players who sacrifice even personal comfort for the development of their sport and their organisations.

 These leaders are results-oriented builders who work hard to ensure the progress of their athletes, teams and sporting organisations. 

These are visionary and transformative leaders who are in great demand at the level of full-time administrators at various sports authorities as well as at the level of volunteers in national, regional, continental and international sports organisations. 

On the other hand, there is another type of leadership, the mercenary type people, who manoeuvre themselves into positions of power simply for the benefits they derive from the organisations they purport to lead.

 These are leaders who do not care whether the organisations they are in charge of collapse or not, as long as they are in power. These leaders cling to power by hook and crook. They are always very suspicious of colleagues and subordinates such that they stifle development of their organisations through micro-management and manipulation.

Southern Africa is a very much homogenous region with great potential for economic and political integration. 

The regional sports organisations and the leaders should and must accelerate the development and integration of the region through sport.  

Sport has great potential to transform the lives of the 200 million people in the region and contribute to the ideals of the founding fathers of the independent countries and great statesmen of the region. Southern Africa has never had a shortage of great sports leaders. 

These leaders, some of who are now late, must be celebrated and honoured so that they become role models for generations to come. Sport has generally played a great role in post-independence Southern Africa with regard to nation-building, national and regional identity as well as pride brought by participation in continental and international sports events. 

However, despite the demonstrable public and personal benefits of the fitness, sport, recreation, leisure industry, it has mainly been promoted and funded by the respective national governments. 

Private sector sponsorship and financing is still a challenge. Notwithstanding, sport in Southern Africa now has great potential to be a multi-billion dollar industry, generating employment and wealth for thousands, if not millions of people.

 Combined with major event hosting, sport tourism has emerged to sustain the hospitality industries, which in some cases, without sport, could be teetering on the brink of collapse and bankruptcy.

The region must thank its sports leaders for helping the region to realise that indeed sport is one of the  viable options  in terms of transforming people’s lives. The term “sport business” has now become fashionable, meaning that sport is no longer just about fun, games and enjoyment. 

It is now a public education, health and economic tool to accelerate development in many hitherto backward states. Sport has the ability to productively utilise the most precious asset of the poor, their labour, to enable them to earn more income, enhance their productivity thereby generating wealth. 

To achieve the afore-mentioned goals, sport has to be effectively and efficiently governed in Southern Africa. To this end, the Southern Times Sports Forum pays tribute to leaders who have helped to open our eyes about the great possibilities and opportunities that the region has.

With regard to football, the most popular sport in the region, the late Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) Chairman, Nelson “Jumbo Jet” Chirwa certainly deserves posthumous honour for working hard with his colleagues such as Ishmael Bhamjee of Botswana and others to establish the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA). 

He was a giant, literally, and imposing man whose uncompromising commitment to the development of the “beautiful game” was legendary. It is pleasing to note that COSAFA has continued to assist with the development of the game in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles under the able guidance of great leaders such Ashford Mamelodi of Botswana.

Dr Tommy Sithole, the current Secretary General Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) deserves special commendation for working hard with his team to ensure the successful organisation of the 6th All Africa Games in Zimbabwe in 1995 despite great economic difficulties facing the country at that time. 

Subsequently, Southern Africa has hosted two other editions of the major multi-sport event, Johannesburg (South Africa) in 1999 and Maputo (Mozambique) in 2011.

Southern Africa is also greatly indebted to the South African duo of the late Honourable Minister, Steve Tshwete and SAFA President, Solomon “Stix” Morewa for working with their colleagues to bring the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations to the region. Zimbabwe should have hosted the 2000 edition of the event had it not been for the bungling of certain leaders which resulted in the event being moved to Ghana and Nigeria on a “Plan B” joint hosting arrangements. 

However, Angola made the region very proud by hosting a memorable Africa Cup of Nations in 2010 despite the threat of separatist terrorists. 

Hopefully, Zambia can continue with this proud tradition if the country wins the right to host the 2019 AFCON.

Due recognition must also be given to Zimbabwean, Macleod Chaora  and the late Malawian, Mark Jimu Tembo for helping to establish and sustain what was known as the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) Zone VI. Dr Vetumbuavi Veii of Namibia, Boyce Sebetlela of Botswana, Mvuso Mbebe of South Africa and Charles Dzimba of Zimbabwe richly deserve recognition for working with their colleagues in transforming the same organisation and making it more responsive to the region’s sport development needs. Now known as the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5, this organisation can definitely help drive sport in the right direction in Southern Africa.

The former Foreign Affairs  Minister and retired  Vice –President of Botswana, Lieutenant –General Mompati Merafhe deserves special recognition for working together with his colleagues in establishing  the Confederation of Southern African National Olympic Committees (COSANOC) which is also a strategic organisation in the development  of sport in the region. 

The vivacious and vibrant former chairperson of the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) and now Minister of Trade and Industry, Dorcas Makgatho-Malesu, also deserves accolades for dragging some of her colleagues within the  region, kicking and screaming, in her gallant  fight to raise the profile of women and sport in the Southern African .

The Southern African roll of honour for sports leaders cannot be complete without Dr Danny Jordaan. Together with other luminaries, he deserves special mention for making the whole world stand up and recognize Africa through the successful organisation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Just like in political leadership, the role models are right here on our doorsteps. The region has produced great leaders in the form of the late legendary statesman, Nelson Mandela and many others. We have no reason to fail.  There is inspiration everywhere! What more can we ask for? 

May 2014
« Apr   Jun »