By Daniel Molokele| In his now anthemic song, ‘Badlala njani’, that he sung in praise of Highlanders football club; the iconic and legendary Lovemore Majaivana mentions several names outside those actively playing soccer on the pitch.
However, the very first of all the names that he chose to highlight and appreciate is that of the late Ndumiso Emmanuel Gumede.
“Ndumiso Gumede kalamathambo. Ubaphethe njani engelamathambo!”
Such was the successful impact of Gumede on the oldest premier league club in Zimbabwe; Highlanders FC Bosso, which was founded in 1926.
Indeed, few will argue when it is asserted that Gumede is by far the most influential leader that Bosso has ever had in its entire 95-year history.
Gumede devoted most of his adult life into selfless service towards the iconic and legendary soccer club.
He was first asked to serve his beloved Bosso as its representative at Harare in 1974.
Later on, in 1978, at a rather tender age of 33, Gumede was elected as the club’s Executive Chairman.
This was his first stint at the help of the Bosso ship.
His first term only lasted for two years until 1980, when he was called to serve at a national level.
However, Gumede later returned to Bosso when he was elected once again as its Chairperson in 1983.
It was during his second stint that he managed to establish himself as a visionary and innovative leader. Under his impressive leadership, Bosso managed to buy its Robert Mugabe avenue offices, camping house in Luveve known as “Hotel California” and also to take over Queens Bowling Club, which is now famously known as the Highlanders clubhouse.
I first became fully conscious of Bosso during Gumede’s second stint as the Chairperson of Bosso.
I come from a very soccer loving family. Both my parents were passionate soccer personalities.
My late father, Godfrey Mguni was a well-known soccer personality in my hometown of Whange.
During the 1970s, he initially built his reputation as a footballer and later on in the 1980s, he firmly established himself as an administrator.
My late father was the leader and inspirational force behind one of the most successful soccer teams in the early 1980s that played under the local Wankie Football Association (WAFA)
His team was known as the Zulu Royals football club.
Some soccer players used to stay at our home.
Added to that, the team players used to have some of their meals at our home.
Their jerseys or kits used to be washed at our home.
I also used to accompany the team when it was playing its matches.
In fact, I recall that I used to be part of the half-time team talks by the time I was five years old.
I also remember looking forward to eating some oranges during the same half time pep talk. During those days, it was normal for the soccer players to be given oranges at halftime as organic energizers.
It was because of both my parents heavily involvement with the Zulu Royals that my early childhood is replete with vivid memories of these unique soccer experiences. Those memories go back to the time I was barely three years old.
I think I first caught a glimpse of the iconic Gumede in person around 1983. I was only 8 years old at that time. This was the time I attended a Bosso match that I fully recall in my memory. Bosso travelled over to the Colliery. Unfortunately, on that day, they were totally outclassed by the coalminers, popularly known as Chipangano.
I do remember myself weeping inconsolably after Bosso was defeated on that day.
One of my late father’s friends tried to console me but it was in vain. I remember him remarking loudly about my passionate love for Bosso.
Throughout my primary school years, I keenly followed the meteoric rise of Gumede as a soccer administrator. I was able to share the joy of one of his most successful years in 1986, when Bosso did well and won all the domestic cups except the league title.
The 1986 team that was led by the late Willard Khumalo is one of the most talented squads that Bosso has ever assembled. It boasted some of the club’s most famous players such as Madinda ‘Khathazile’ Ndlovu, Peter ‘Captain Oxo’ Nkomo, Fanuel ‘Ncane’ Ncube, Douglas ‘British’ Mloyi, Alexander ‘The Cool Ruler’ Maseko. Mercedes ‘Rambo’ Sibanda, Titus ‘Zee, the Yellowman’ Majola, Richard Ndlovu, Nhamo Shambira, Dumisani Ngulube, among others.
Gumede went on to hold several administrative posts in the national soccer stage. He is a former ZIFA Vice President, CEO and Committee.
In the later part of his life, Gumede returned to his first love, Bosso. It was during this time that I managed to have a personal experience with him.
In particular it was between 2015 and 2017m when I served as the Chairperson of the Highlanders FC South Africa Supporters branch that I had the privilege to work closely with him.
At that time, he was now serving as the club’s CEO.
In February 2016, I worked closely with Gumede when he organized a trip for a special delegation that travelled to the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. In particular, I was so privileged to personally host the entire delegation from Bulawayo at my home in Johannesburg, during their brief stopover while they were on their way to Grahamstown.
The delegation consisted of the club’s administrators, executives and also the royal traditional leaders that included Chief Nyangazonke of Kezi and Prince Peter Zwidekalanga Khumalo, among others. The delegation visited the grave of one of the iconic club’s co-founders, Prince Njube Khumalo. The special visit was part of the club’s commemoration of its 90th birthday.
Gumede used to tell me that he was hugely inspired by some of the ideas that I had shared with him that I had hipped would help to transform Bosso into a modern club. In particular, Gumede used to encourage me to fully pursue my passionate idea to help commercialize Bosso as a brand.
I do vividly remember that in my last personal conversation with him during one of my regular visits to the Bosso offices along Robert Mugabe avenue in 2017; he challenged me to seriously consider running for the post of CEO since had decided to retire.
I briefly considered the idea but it was soon overtaken by another opportunity that arose for me to return to my hometown of Whange and serve as its next Member of Parliament.
I do remember how Gumede responded to me, when I informed him of my decision to retrain to active party politics. He had mixed feelings. On one hand he was so sad that Bosso was going to lose one of its most promising administrative leaders. At that time, I was also serving as the Secretary of the club’s institutional reforms Committee. In particular, I had volunteered to take the lead in the process of coming up with extensive changes to the Bosso Constitution.
On the other hand, Gumede was also happy for me that I had decided to return to Zimbabwe and help to build a new future for our beautiful motherland. He encouraged me to pursue my political career in the same selfless and passionate manner I had served Bosso.
Gumede eventually retired as the CEO and later on agreed to serve as his beloved club’s President. This was the position he was still having when he passed away
It is also fitting that Bosso hosted a special event to honour his legacy on the 22nd of December 2021. This was a few days before he passed away. It was indeed a fitting tribute and send off for one of the club’s most famous personalities.
Rest in peace Ndumiso Emmanuel Gumede. We will forever appreciate and cherish your life-long contribution towards soccer in Zimbabwe especially towards your beloved Highlanders football club.
Bayethe! Lala ngokuthula qhawe la maqhawe ethu!