Swaziland
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‘BIRDS’ IN OVER E400K HEADACHE

MBABANE – It is currently doom and gloom for capital city giants Mbabane Swallows.

This is because players are reportedly not happy with the club failing to honour their contract agreement, with it having failed to pay them their signing-on fees.The Beautiful Birds have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons of late, since news emerged that the club’s financial power, Archbishop Bheki Lukhele was stepping down, which he officially did last Thursday, they find themselves with a new headache. They have a list of players, some still in the club and others released, including their former co-coach and physical trainer, Siyabonga Bhembe, whose contract was unceremoniously terminated allegedly owed over E500 000 in signing-on fees and salaries.As much as the Eswatini News reported last Saturday that Lukhele may be gone, but he did so after having paid the current players’ salaries.“Our only trouble is that we still owe signing-on fees which we had agreed to pay at the end of the season and the players are now expecting us to keep our promise but its currently an issue the elders and the management committee (MC) are working on, as we must renew for some and sign new players as well for next season,” an impeccable source said.

Affected

The source and some of the affected players who expect to have their contracts renewed said it was quite frustrating for them, especially after the club released a statement last Friday to confirm the status on their former President, Lukhele. The statement also clarified that Lukhele was leaving with his two Sprinter buses, which had been Swallows branded.“We wish he settled everything with the players before his exit so we could negotiate new contracts,” said a source. Swallows released a statement a fortnight ago to confirm Lukhele’ official departure from the club. However, Lukhele who is also the All Nations Church in Zion leader did not do so without paying the players and the technical staff their deues.Swallows Governor at the Premier League of Eswatini (PLE), Msebenzi Nhlengetfwa, could only confirm they paid last month’s salaries to their players but avoided the question of the unpaid signing-on fees.
Some of the paid players and officials have been trying to get paid for a while now but in vain, to the extent that the team could face legal proceedings or even the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA). Swallows have faced a FIFA verdict before and they were forced to settle the owed fee to one of their former foreign players, while last season it was Moneni Pirates who had to part over E100 000 for the same issue, after FIFA ruled in favour of their owed player then. They nearly failed to register for the season as the verdict was clear they could not do so without settling the fee.

Agreed

“The players have not been paid their signing-on fees after it was agreed that they would be paid when the season ends. Actually, players are normally paid their signing-on fees soon after signing for the club like Kwakhe Thwala, Felix Badenhorst and Neliswa ‘Tiger’ Dlamini, who were all paid immediately. This has also caused the problem for us as the owed ones are arguing why some got it soon after signing,” one affected player said on condition of anonymity. The players said the lowest signing-on fee at Swallows was E20 000 but most of those owed were ranging between E40 000 and upwards, which took their estimation to over E200 000. Swallows also had issues with some of its released players in February as they failed to settle their remaining salary payments following termination of their contracts.

Include

These include former Moneni Pirates defender Thabo Vilakati, who wants his E20 000 signing-on fee, James Nguluve and Triston Dunn among others were also to earn same signing-on fees as Vilakati. There is also the pending issue with then co-coach and Physical Trainer Siyabonga Bhembe, who had his contract terminated when new coach Caleb Ngwenya took over the reigns as the head coach. This left a huge debt for them as they are yet to pay Bhembe, who had signed a two-year contract, about E135 000 after only paying two months’ salary since the termination. Both Bhembe and Vilakati have threatened legal action against the club, should push come to shove. The E135 000 is what Bhembe would have earned in the remaining period of 11 months of the contract as he was reportedly earning E15 000 salary monthly.Bhembe only received pay for 13 months, which totals E195 000. On top of these, Umkhonto KaShaka have to deal with midfielder Mohammed Kabia’s Sierra Leone agent Alhassan Kamara, who is based in London, United Kingdom and has also claimed he was owed E20 000 agent fee and has threatened to take the matter to FIFA.

Sad

“We are yet to receive our signing-on fee, while some player got theirs. We were told that we will get the signing-on fees when the season ends but last week when we were paid it was only our salaries and that was it. We need to be paid the signing-on fees and the sad thing  is that when you decide to leave at the club , chances of getting it are always slim,” said another player. Some of the players who are believed to be owed signing-on fees ranging from E20k to E100k include Banele ‘Pupu’ Sikhondze, Xolani ‘Papi’ Sikhondze, Ayanda Gadlela, Newman Philiso, Sizolwethu ‘Nunu’ Shabalala, Kwayki Kingskley, Qiniso Nyawo and Kingu Pemba, among others. The man left temporarily in charge of Swallows, Absalom Ngwenya, who is Swallows elders Chairman, said the matter was confidential. “The issue of signing-on fees surrounding the team players is confidential and it involves the employee and the employer. The players must know that everything bound to happen will happen,” he said briefly.

Comment

Swallows General Manager Sandile ‘Beyond 2000’ Zwane could not be drawn for comment after his cellphone rung unanswered when called for the better part of the day yesterday.
Eswatini FIFA-accredited agent Dingane Maduma said it was tricky to comment since most of the players had their own representatives, who were well versed on each individual’s contract. “I only represent Siphosethu Mabilisa, whom Mbabane Swallows look after well,” he said brifly. Meanwhile, outside of our borders, South Africa’s Royal AM has been ordered by FIFA to honour former Kaizer Chiefs Serbia-born striker Samir Nurkovic’s contract terms by paying him his undisclosed amount of cash by June 19, next Monday. Earlier this year, West Ham was also ordered to pay the outstanding loan fee of about E100m (US$5.4m) of Alex Kral to Spartak Moscow.
(Additional information by Nimrod Hlophe)