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MBABANE – Drama!

This word best describes the 2022/23 MTN Premier League Awards, held on Wednesday at SibaneSami Hotel in Ezulwini. While the ceremony cannot be faulted for much, the Premier League of Eswatini (PLE) Executive Committee (Exco) and the PLE Awards Committee, both were exposed in a humiliating manner along with the sponsor, MTN Eswatini.

This follows the awards winners changing in the last minute when other candidates had already allegedly been told they had won. Evidence in our possession points that the Awards Committee selected Mbabane Highlanders’ number one goalie, Khanyakwezwe Shabalala as the winner for the Best Goalkeeper Award, but it was handed over to Young Buffaloes’ Mlungisi Nxumalo.

The Best PRO Award choice was Nsingizini Hotspurs’ Mnotfo Dlamini. These are the two most contentious awards at the moment following the changes while the media award for Best Print also is another controversy. The print media award, it is claimed was initially given to Eswatini Financial Times (EFT), but the PLE Exco allegedly felt this was unfair as they could not win it ahead of our sister newspaper, The Times of Eswatini and requested them to submit another report which then put the Times in second place while the Eswatini Observer was in first place. The later took home the award.

The print media award carried an amount of E5 000 for the print and E5 000 for electronic, but it ended up being shared between electronic and print when the two work separately in their operations. The most controversial one, the Best Goalkeeper Award, which Shabalala deserved after playing all 26 league matches and keeping 16 clean sheets and his team finished with the least goals and on the fourth spot, carried a E9 000 prize while Best PRO came with a E5 000 which went to Royal Leopard’s Frank Hurube.

An unsigned report from the Awards Committee, which has also claimed to have written to the PLE already requesting a meeting over the awards changes, stipulates the above-mentioned as it affirms the selected candidates as winners to be Shabalala and Mnotfo for Best Goalkeeper and Best PRO. As to where and when it changed is tricky as impeccable sources close to PLE Exco also refute the report in our possession.

“So long as it is unsigned, it can’t be the one submitted to the Exco as the final report for the awardees as we rejected the initial one due to some irregularities, especially in the media awards. I may not know what happened with the goalkeeper and PRO awards but the PLE Exco has the power to act when it senses irregularities and people may note that even in the previous two seasons before last, the awards winners have been appalling and the committee knows that too,” a source claimed. However, as investigations into the matter continue, it can be said for now that the Awards Committee chaired by Denver Sundowns and national team Sihlangu legend Rodney ‘Stumbo’ Charles has insisted on the meeting with the PLE before making any media statement.


“We were all wondering what was going on because these were not the individuals we had said must win the awards. I was confused as well regarding the awards. We need to talk to PLE to find out on what really happened. I was disappointed to hear about what happened and I never even got a letter of invitation to the awards. I’m in the dark with the matter and I’m still to know their reason of changing in the last hour,” he said.

Charles added that he asked one of the committee members to write a letter to the PLE and complain about what happened on the fateful day.
Meanwhile, the Awards Committee report explains why Shabalala was their pick for the gong. “He hardly conceded goals and was also a regular in the starting line-up. He also commanded his defence with great confidence and his ball distribution from the back also looked much improved compared to the previous seasons.

Yes, there is room for improvement when it comes to dealing with crosses, but he was the reason Highlanders were one of the clubs that conceded few goals last season. A goalkeeper for the future indeed,” reads the report in part.Madlenya FC Director Juluka Gamedze, who is one of the PLE Exco members said he was not aware that there was a report specifying the awards winners.

“The only report that I got in my possession only showed the three candidates who were competing in each category, not the winners,” he said briefly.
It remains to be seen who will take the responsibility here as the PLE is alleged to also have a separate report that was signed and submitted by the Awards Committee Chairman, but it never included Times of Eswatini as part of the winners.