THE proposed disbandment of newly-promoted Castle Lager Premier Soccer League side Hippo Valley has taken a twist as unions representing Hippo Valley Estates workers threaten a strike to press for Tongaat Hulett to continue financing the team in the top-flight year.
Tongaart Hulett is the parent company of Hippo Valley Estates and Triangle, of which teams are in the top-flight.
Former Dynamos coach Moses Chunga is at the centre of the controversy with some quarters suggesting the disbandment might have been done to punish the vocal coach.
Some sources suggested that Chunga made huge salary demands after guiding the team into the top-flight by winning the Eastern Region Division One, which is said to have triggered a fall-out with the company human resources director Fred Nyangwe.
Chunga denied making demands of a $30 000 signing-on fee for a new contract in the top-flight.
At the weekend, Chunga and workers’ union leaders met with Zifa officials after the finals of the Sylvia Dube memorial tournament where an agreement was reached to engage Hippo Valley Estates further.
Chishamiso Stadium was packed to capacity as the local fans watched Renco Mine and Gaza Gunners fight it out for the Sylvia Dube memorial trophy, but they had also come out to show solidarity with Chunga and the workers who are putting pressure on the company management to dump its stance on the football team’s disbandment.
The plan is that if the company stands by its decision to disband the team, the workers and the community will take over the funding of the project.
But the workers’ union, particularly the Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Industry Workers’ Union (ZSMIMU), says it will not go down without a fight.
ZSMIMU secretary-general Admore Hwarare said that they were ready to join forces with the community to fund the team, but they would put pressure on Hippo Valley to finance the team.
“We have a large membership. We collect $5 from every worker, so we can buy a bus in January and fundraise for the team to play in the Premier League,” Hwarare said.
“It does not make sense for us to merge with Triangle. They have they own coach and their own players. If we merge, which coach between Gishon Ntini and Chunga will be in charge of the team and using which stadium as the home ground? It is not feasible for us to merge and what we are saying is our company has got money and should continue with the football project,” he said.
Hwarare questioned the bringing in of Chunga and some players who were in the top-flight in the first place.
“Why did they bring all these players here and why did they employ Chunga if they knew they didn’t have the resources to play in the Premiership. They have said that they would need $600 000 a year for each team to sustain life in the PSL. That is not true at all. And if it’s true, then we need an audit at Triangle. Surely they did not use that kind of money last year. Not even Highlanders or Dynamos need such a budget. These players do not get much. They are paid $180 per month. The company has got its own transport and camping facilities. Why would we need $600 000?”
The ZSMIWU has got a membership of 20 000 workers.
Hwarare accused the company of spending a lot on cricket, hockey and golf, saying all the management’s children got $6 000 a term for school fees each.
“Nobody cares about cricket and golf here. It’s only them who want their golf and I am sure they wouldn’t want to lose it and likewise, we do not want to lose our football. We have got bars in this town which we can give to the team and it can finance itself. Why not also give a 100 hectare sugar-plantation to the team?
“There are so many ideas, but the management does not want to pursue them because they have a hidden agenda, and we will not let them deprive us of our right to entertainment. We are very angry and it might cause a strike. I told the management that we will go on strike and they said we should engage further.”