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A divided house of Gaborone United (GU) will this coming weekend converge for a Special General Meeting (SGM) to elect an Executive Committee to lead it past the treacherous waters it is currently wading through.
Heavily under debt and with some supporters agitating for the club to be leased to millionaire former financier Nicholas Zakhem, the meeting is expected to point a direction into which the club will be heading.
While the only issues expected to be on the agenda at the meeting will be reports by the current committee as well as election of office bearers, the hotly contested issue of Zakhem’s takeover is expected to weigh heavily on the minds of GU faithful when election of office bearers gets underway.
A couple of weeks ago, the millionaire business magnate sent a proposition to GU elders’ committee seeking to take over the team for a period of 15 years. The proposal was however allegedly rejected by the team elders, much to the chagrin of the businessman and a section of the team supporters.
The issue of Zakhem’s rejected takeover proposal has since developed deep fissures among the GU file and rank, with some for and some against the proposed takeover.
For those supporting the idea of a takeover, Zakhem comes as a saviour of sorts, willing to spend his hard earned money on the team with no prospects of a return on investments.
However, for those on the other side of the isle, the millionaire businessman is part and parcel of the mess that nearly threw the team into relegation.
Speaking in an interview, one GU elder, who commented on condition of anonymity, said the team should look at the business magnate’s proposal and not ignore it out of hand.
“Ever since Zakhem actively quit pumping money into the club, it has constantly failed to sustain itself and it is heavily in debt. All Zakhem is asking for is for the team to be leased to him to manage for a period of 15 years, after which it will be returned back to the society,” the elder opined.
He said as such, it is perplexing that the team elders took a decision to reject the businessman’s proposal out of hand.
“They did not even bother to consult the GU supporters to discuss the proposal. Instead, they just rejected it. I do not even know whether they acted constitutionally in doing such,” he said.
As far as the elder is concerned, Zakhem has proven time and again that he has the interest of GU at heart and has always poured his millions into the running of the team.
“During that time when GU was supposedly well run, it was Zakhem’s money that was propping up the club,” he explained. “The team’s annual running costs have been around P6 million. Of this, Zakhem paid at least P4 million,” he said.
The elder’s view is a polar opposite of the one furnished by those against Zakhem’s takeover. According to one of those against the businessman, Zakhem is an unscrupulous man who got the team knee deep in debt and left it, only to return with a promise of clearing the debt only if the team is given to him.
“Look at it this way, the committee that got GU into this debt which dates back to 2016 was the one favoured by Zakhem himself. He is the very same person who brought Bismark Appiah to GU and he is the one who terminated his contract which got us into a heavy debt,” the source opined.
“Now, he (Zakhem) comes around and tells us that he can get us out of the debt he and his committee created, only if we give him the team to run. Why not say let me clear the debt I created first then we negotiate? That for me says he deliberately created the debt so he can take over the team,” the source opined.
Quizzed on this point of view, the GU elder favouring Zakhem’s takeover said while the businessman had a hand in Appiah’s hiring and firing, it must be noted that the decision was taken in collaboration with the then committee, and as such was a GU decision.
“However, we cannot outright say Zakhem wanted to get us in debt. We know that he long pulled back from GU in 2016 when things were not going as he had wanted. As for the Appiah debt, it should be put at the doorstep of the committee that was in control at GU at the time,” he explained.
“You have to remember that this was a default judgment against GU. The committee at the time neglected its duties and never bothered to respond to FIFA appeals to pay Appiah. Had we done the right thing, the team would have made arrangements to pay and would not have had FIFA on the team’s back,” he said.
The elder said despite everything that happened in the past, GU still needs Zakhem. “Even just this past week, the current committee reached out to Zakhem asking for a loan. We need him and we should talk to him,” he concluded.