Kenneth Mhlophe is hoping to ride on his success at attaining mining rights for the club as he seeks to retain control of one of the biggest football clubs in the country, Highlanders.
Mhlophe was elected chairperson unopposed in 2018 after his challenger, the legendary Ernest ‘Maphepha’ Sibanda, a former chairman of the club, was disqualified.
Highlanders was last month cleared by the government to start mining activities after securing a gold mining claim in Inyathi, Bubi District.
Mhlophe is riding on the glory of his executive committee landing that mining project, to get another three-year tenure at the helm of the Bulawayo giants at the executive elections slated for February 7.
“The biggest of the projects of them all during my term was negotiating for the special grant mining licence. Maybe I should highlight one or two things because people don’t understand what a special grant mining licence entails.
These are mines that have operated before which are under government. Where we have been allocated the mining rights, the place belonged to the Germans. Surveys were done and the government already knew there was gold. I have plans for the mine. I know that we will require equipment to start mining and I am already in negotiations with potential investors and partners who will bring in the equipment and the mining expertise. We want to run the mine on a commercial basis. We want to run it outside football and football must request for financial assistance from the mine,” Mhlophe said.
Mhlophe dismissed reports the club will need US$10 million to kick-start the mining project as there is no prospecting to be done but it’s an already established mine with all prerequisite processes done.
The Highlanders chairman said his desire was for the formation of a company to run that mine to salvage Highlanders from the financial crisis that has seen them failing to take part in the Caf Confederation Cup after winning the Chibuku Super Cup in 2019.
“I have unfinished business at Highlanders especially on the mining project. I want to leave a legacy. I want people in the future to say during his time as chairman Mhlophe left this; not for myself but the club. I want the board of trustees to hold on to the mine and establish a company to run the mine professionally. I want to reach a point where we will no longer need outside sponsorship. With mining it is possible. We can be self-sufficient, go into the market and get any player we want or develop our own players from juniors. We can even go for Caf competitions. We are failing to do these things because we don’t have the financial muscle,” Mhlophe.
He prides himself in that since he came on board at Highlanders in 2018, the club has been able to garner trust from its stakeholders and has managed to manage and clear a debt of close to $1 million. The club has managed to pay its expatriate coaches and is currently revamping training grounds at the clubhouse after securing a sponsor but the project has been hampered by lockdown regulations.
Mhlophe said the club did not owe anyone in terms of salaries, managing to pay players and staff even after losing the NetOne sponsorship last year.
The club also managed to secure an Arenel sponsorship for bottled water and drinks and also secured sponsorship to kit the senior team and another for all the junior teams from the Under-13s to the Bosso-90 side that plays in Division One.