BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE
‘Saddled with litigation costs, but happy with the outcome of the court proceedings,’ is how Bennett Mamelodi sums his feelings.
After losing all the cases he filed against the BFA, the former BPL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) opines he is a happy man.
Mamelodi spoke in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Standard sports following his latest court loss, in which says he feels vindicated, though it all came at a cost.
In his own words, while he had been vilified and labelled corrupt by his detractors, he however finds solace in that ‘the so-called forensic audit report’ will never be used against him as per the Court of Appeal (CoA) ruling.
Making its ruling in his appeal against an earlier High Court ruling, which had dismissed his plea for the forensic audit to be set aside, the CoA ruled that while Mamelodi ‘was charged’ following the said forensic audit, ‘the charges were not proceeded with.’
“There is therefore no record of wrongdoing that anyone can use against the appellant (Mamelodi). In my view this is not an appropriate case for the court to proceed with determination of an issue that is moot. It serves no purpose,” he said.
For Mamelodi, this was all the vindication he wanted, or so he wants us to believe. For him, it was all about clearing his name, his reputation.
Even more satisfying, according to Mamelodi was the fact that the CoA determined that the findings of the Forensic Audit were mere allegations when it declared “such criticism of the appellant (Mamelodi) as it contained was not tested in any court or tribunal and remains unproven.”
“It was never about winning or losing. My battle was based on principle, because I did nothing wrong, and the even the Court of Appeal has affirmed that fact,” he declared.
“I wanted to clear my name, and despite having lost with costs, my name is clear and my integrity is intact,” he said.
While happy with the outcome, the former BPL CEO says the run-ins he had with the BFA have left exhausted and disappointed, but ‘not angry.’
“My name, image, integrity and credibility, until the pronouncement by the Court of Appeal, had been defamed and dragged in the mud,” he laments.
He went on, to claim that as an administrator, he had ‘worked hard’ to develop his reputation and it was very hard for him to see his name deliberately soiled.
“These calculated and well-orchestrated evil and damaging actions by the BPL Board and the BFA, had not only brought me embarrassment, but had also torn to shreds, my reputation which I have worked extremely hard to build,” Mamelodi says.
According to the former BPL CEO, all these had a toll on his health as well as on his family, who supported him through his ordeal.
“This experience has also been difficult on my family and indeed on my personal health. My ailing mother used to cry every time she read about me in the newspaper. I developed a heart problem and had to undergo surgery,” he says.
Throughout his constant battles with the BFA, Mamelodi concedes that his finances also took a hit, going as far as claiming he ‘was attached several times’ at his house.
Now as he tries to rebuild his life and close his chapter with the BPL and the BFA, Mamelodi says he looks back with pride at what he achieved while at the helm of the BPL. This is however tinged with sadness when he looks at the current state of the league.
“I went to the BPL to do a job, and I did my best. The battle to grow the BPL was not some polite picnic at which you arrive with your best behavior. You need to roll up your sleeves and put in an honest shift,” he ruefully looks back.
“I gave this job my all. I fought a good fight, I ran the race, after-all, I had convinced myself, and indeed the members of my staff, that we were building a monster,” he reminisces.
As he envisaged, the monster grew big. But as greed came in, the monster became even all the more consuming. In the end, it was the same monster he built that not only chewed him, but also spat him.
And as he now watches from afar as his monster self destructs, Mamelodi says this is a shared failure from all the stakeholders.
The former BPL CEO is of the view that while they did not see eye to eye as guardians of the beautiful game, things could be a lot more different had there been mature engagement for all those concerned.
“I’ve always believed that I was not the enemy. Resistance to change, corruption and irresponsible thuggery were the enemy. It is an absolute tragedy that the very football that was meant to unite us, was the one that had divided us.”
“I held the view that in positions of responsibility, tensions needed to be managed in a mature way. We had failed dismally in that respect and I had no doubt in my mind that history would judge us harshly. Look at the BPL now,” he says.
Given his belief that issues could have been resolved in a better and mature way, one then is left with no option but to ask why he went to the courts and not engaged the BFA through its set processes.
“An accounting officer’s stock of trade is amongst others, his character and integrity, and both were under attack,” he answers philosophically.
He continues; “Aspersions were being cast and I had to respond. Bad things happen to good people, and nobody does anything about it.”
“They drew first blood. What was I supposed to do, roll over and die?” he asks rhetorically.
Asked why he did not trust the internal judicial processes of the BFA, the former BPL CEO has one word for an answer, “Instinct,” he says.
Mamelodi says given the simmering tensions and animosity that prevailed then, subjecting himself to internal judicial processes was not an option.
“Justice is about creating order and not about satiating anger. The wheels were already rolling and everything was being done out of anger,” he says.
Asked if he had not jumped the gun by not subjecting himself to internal processes, the former BPL CEO says “It would have been foolish to subject myself to a kangaroo court. Instead I placed my faith in the Courts.”
“I learnt to always be several steps ahead of these. I learnt to anticipate their every move. That is how I survived,” he adds.
When asked if they as the football administrators had not taken heed to Justice Walia’s plea to stop unnecessary quarrels for the sake of football when he dismissed his attempt to interdict his scheduled disciplinary hearing, Mamelodi answers on the negative. “No! Not at all,” he says.
“The Justice spoke from the heart, as a football fan. He reminded us that he attends all the Zebras matches around Gaborone without fail. He implored football administrators and leaders to put pettiness and egos aside for the sake of football. He foresaw that if that did not happen supporters would stay away,” Mamelodi expounds.
However, now that his feud with BFA is just one court hearing away from conclusion, or so as we hope, does he not harbour any anger towards his former employers?
“No. I don’t look back in anger. Life is a collection of memories, both the good and the bad. It would be foolish of me to drown myself in anger. Life has to go on,” he concludes.