Senior Sports Editor
NORMAN MAPEZA has revealed he was barred from entering his room at a South African hotel as part of a shadowy plot to frustrate him during his short, but turbulent stay, at Supa Diski newboys Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.
The Zimbabwean coach says contrary to claims by the club suggesting he unceremoniously dumped them, their marriage effectively broke down over a range of issues, including those related to trust, where the two parties could not find common ground.
Mapeza said he found the conduct of club chief executive, Sello Chokoe, who was fired as coach of the same team in January, only to be hired back as the CEO in July, very questionable and incompatible with his vision.
It was Chokoe, according to Mapeza, who ordered that the former Warriors coach and his assistant Daniel Vheremu, should be barred from using his hotel room until they produced police clearances.
The incident, the coach said, provoked the chain of events that eventually led to the sensational breakdown of their relationship.
Already, according to Mapeza, cracks had emerged between the two parties as some of the things he had been guaranteed would be available by the chief executive, including the players, were nowhere to be seen.
“The point is that we had no team, we had just a handful of players from Bidvest Wits and, in discussion with the CEO, before I went to South Africa, he had assured me that the right players would be available,’’ said Mapeza.
“He told me players, who have the experience to help us compete in such a tough league, were already available but when we got there, it soon became clear that was not the case.
“Of course, there were many other players at the training ground, those who come looking for a chance, about 40 or so, but I had made it clear that we wanted to have a competitive squad, and we had discussed the kind of players who could help us compete.
“We had a meeting with the club president (Lawrence Mulaudzi) and the CEO, the president was also concerned by the huge number of players at training and wanted to know what was happening.
“I told him that I had been told that there were 27 players by the CEO and we would get some five, or so, more players from Orlando Pirates but the CEO flatly denied that and said he never told me anything like that.
“That’s the first time I picked out that we were heading for problems because I come from a background where I stand by every word that I say and, when the person who is supposed to be your immediate boss, starts disputing some of the things he told you, then it’s not a good environment.
“I have to make it clear that, even before I left Harare for South Africa, I had this feeling that things would not work out as well as we had hoped, I don’t know why I was feeling like that but that is the truth and, sadly, that is what happened.’’
Mapeza said he had not yet signed a contract because he first wanted to look at the state of the club before committing himself.
“But the CEO wasn’t telling me the truth from the word go, for whatever reason, I don’t know, maybe, as someone who once coached the team, he had his own way of doing things, and wanted to frustrate me,’’ said Mapeza.
“I come from a background where honesty is everything and I knew that they were new in the league and we had to build a team and that would take a bit of time but we had to be open to one another.
“The next thing, a technical director (who is now the team coach) was brought in and I wasn’t told anything about that and had to ask what was happening because if you are a technical crew, you work as a team and you need to trust each other.
“Things were not just going according to what we had expected and matters came to a head when we arrived at the hotel, where we were staying, and we were told that an instruction had been left that we should not gain access into our rooms unless we produced police clearances.
“Maybe, the CEO was sure that we had not satisfied all the Covid-19 requirements, when we came to South Africa, like maybe we had jumped the border, and wanted to try and use that against us.
“He didn’t know that we had fulfilled every step but you could tell that things were not what they used to be and we tried to get hold of him but his mobile phone was off.
“Since we had our clothes, and other stuff, in our rooms, we asked if we could take them out and we ended up putting them in (Washington) Arubi’s car and that’s when we decided to go to Johannesburg and later to come back home.’’
Mapeza’s story appeared to be confirmed by the club’s failure to field 18 players for their MTN8 quarter-final against SuperSport United on Saturday.
TTM ended up fielding just 14 players, with 11 on the pitch, and just three on the bench.
The drama surrounding Zambian forward, Augustine Mulenga, who was unveiled by TTM last Thursday but ended up signing for Amazulu yesterday, also appears to highlight the confusion at the club, and also support Mapeza’s story.
“I was also shocked to see my name there (at TTM),’’ Mulenga told a press conference, where he was unveiled as an Amazulu player, yesterday.
“I didn’t know about that announcement.
“They did approach me but I told them I need time, I didn’t agree anything with them. My focus is now with Amazulu FC.
“I left Pirates because I wanted game-time, it’s not that I was scared to compete.
“I didn’t want to be in a similar situation as last season.”