By Lovemore Dube
HIGHLANDERS Football Club have parted ways with head coach Madinda Ndlovu after it was agreed that his US$5 000 salary was unaffordable.
It was also confirmed that 60 percent salary of Zimbabwe's once feared striker salary was being paid by sponsors, Savanna Tobacco, and the club settling the remainder.
Madinda "Khathazile" Ndlovu
The Bosso executive resolved that they could not continue to accrue debts because of Ndlovu's employment - who is also elder brother to Zimbabwe's football hero, Peter Ndlovu.
Ndlovu who, during the dark football days of 1980s already had a stint with Britain's Sheffield Wednesday has been replaced by Philani Mabhena. By the Sheffield Wednesday was in the premier.
His departure has seen former defence supremo Douglas Mloyi engaged as welfare manager, replacing Raerburn Ndebele who has been relegated to the juniors.
This was the club's official position on the coach's exit but many people believe that became a convenient excuse for the executive. Many in the executive had for months been quietly advocating for the coach's firing because of poor results and on Monday they convinced chairman Themba Ndlela that it was time for him to go.
Highlanders find themselves a few points from the relegation zone and need to pick up points if they are to finish in the top eight.
In an interview yesterday, Ndlela said Ndlovu was not fired but they had to go separate ways after failing to agree on a salary cut to lessen the club's debts amounting to US$23 000 on the technical team, most of it going to the head coach.
Ndlovu, one of the club's heroes of the 1980s to mid-1990s era, was employed at the beginning of the year at a salary that left many members baffled as to what Ernest Sibanda and his 2008 executive who crafted the contract had been up to.
Problems allegedly started last week when Ndlovu's manager, Hosea Bhebhe, said there would be no further discussions on the protracted salary cut negotiations until the end of the year. The club had to first settle what it owed Ndlovu, which includes about 260 litres of fuel for this month.
Among the coach's perks were 400 litres of fuel per month. But when Ndlovu came for the Lengthens BancABC Sup8r semi-final, which they lost 1-0, the writing was on the wall that his time was up.
But due to poor financial position as a result of small crowds at Barbourfields Stadium, Highlanders have found themselves failing to meet their side of the bargain while the coach went about on a rebuilding exercise that has left Bosso seven places from the bottom of the log.
"We did not fire him. We have been in negotiations with him for a while requesting if he could agree to a salary cut. We did not agree so the way forward was for us to go our separate ways. We did not fire him as such because after failing to reach an agreement, we said to him we could not afford his package," said Ndlela.
When our correspondent first published the coach's hefty salary late last year and in the run-up to the elections the club dismissed it. But later on with results not forthcoming, the executive swallowed its pride and confirmed it to the board.
Ndlela said in the interim Mabhena, who arrived at the beginning of the year after being lured by Ndlovu from Botswana and is on a monthly salary believed to be R15 000, would take over.
"Mabhena will, in the interim period, be in charge while we hunt for another coach. Should he prove himself he could be among the front-runners. It will depend on how he performs, we are not ruling him out too.
"Ndebele has previously worked as our juniors’ manager and has a lot of experience dealing with our teams. We think he is the best man for the job. We have a big project with juniors coming up," said Ndlela.
Ndebele is a highly qualified sports coach who was trained in Germany and the US.
His return from the States recently ruffled some feathers within the Highlanders executive with some arguing that he had literally absconded.
Ndlovu identified Ndebele for the role as the former winger extended his power at the club, which had left the executive not in control of some of the team's interests.
While the world over, juniors are a club project, at Highlanders they fell directly under the control of the first team coach. Dumaza Dube, a teacher by profession whose knowledge of human sciences was expected to be the cornerstone of a vibrant junior policy, was fired by the club after falling out of favour with Ndlovu and some sections of the divided executive. His crime was that he had exposed that the team's system would not go far in the 2009 campaign.
He was in trouble after Highlanders lost their first match of the campaign 1-0 to Hwange in which there were also accusations that he traded technical information with boyhood friend Nation Dube.
Nonetheless, Mabhena has to pick himself up and prove his mettle.
His first assignment will be against Highway at Luveve Stadium on Sunday and as a new broom he could attract a better crowd than the man who lured him to this country — Ndlovu.
Mabhena was working in Botswana and is not new at Highlanders, as he has previously coached their juniors. He is a teacher by profession.
Two names have emerged as front-runners — Rahman Gumbo and Willard Khumalo — who are based in Botswana. With the executive seemingly riding on populist decisions, it would not come as a surprise if either land the job.
Ndlovu and his manager Bhebhe could not be reached for comment yesterday.