Almost three months ago, Notwane Football Club called a press briefing at Grand Palm Hotel in Gaborone where they would make a major announcement concerning the future of the team.
A press briefing which was supposed to start at 10am only got underway after almost an hour much to the disappointment of the scribes who filled the Okavango room at the hotel.
Despite the delay, the journalists remained rooted to their seats to hear what could be big news at the club. On the day, everyone associated with Notwane was so excited and that feeling could be seen inside the hotel. It turned out to be a day that Notwane management would introduce the new investor expected to turn Toronto into a force to reckon with.
In July 2010, Notwane membership took a decision at an annual general meeting that there was need to privatise the club and assigned their officials to go and look for investors.
Two years later, their dream came true as one Kealeboga Gift Mogapi was introduced as the man to take the sleeping Gaborone giants to the Promised Land. A Motswana by birth, Mogapi is the General Manager of GMG Holdings, a South African based company.
When introduced, Mogapi was new in the eyes of the scribes present on that day though he worked for commercial radio station RB 2 in the 1990s.
A complete newcomer to Botswana football, his credentials nevertheless which made one believe that Toronto has landed a ‘big fish’.
As he sat alongside Ramotlhwa at the top table, Mogapi made it clear that he was investing in Notwane because he had been impressed by their vision and wanted to make sure that Toronto got back to its glory days.
“We want this team to be a football and business brand and cease to be a laughing stock. Notwane cannot be run in the same manner it was run 40 years back. We want it to be run better,” said Mogapi at the briefing.
He promised to make some drastic changes at the club which might not go down well with some people within the Toronto family.
As he sat at the top table, Mogapi appeared to be pompous and arrogant. He talked tough, with many scribes saying Botswana football needed such administrators to move forward.
At the end of the proceedings, Ramotlhwa presented Mogapi with a Notwane jersey printed KMG 1024 at the back to mark the official handover. He has been given 100 percent shares to run the club.
But he was quick to point out that he would take 80 percent and reserve 20 percent for other business people who would like to invest in the club. During that week in July, the scribes ran helter skelter to set up an interview with the new tycoon at Toronto.
He obliged and hit backpage headlines in almost every publication and his voice was all over the radios. The Big Fish has landed at Toronto. In his first move, Mogapi brought former South African internationals Manqoba Ngwenya and Benedict Vilakazi to the club as a way of trying to improve the image of the club. The signings of the two brought a lot of excitement amongst the fans. They made their debut in the opening 3-1 win over newly-promoted Wonder Sporting Club at the UB Stadium on September 14.
At the end of last month, news started coming out that Mogapi is not what he claimed to be: a man to take Notwane out of the dumps. At the start, the news was dismissed as cheap talk.
It has been reported that Mogapi has disappeared after almost every game with gate-takings claiming that he has businesses to take care of in South Africa. In the past week, Notwane coach Simon Ngomane and some players were kicked out of their accommodations due to non-payment.
It is reported that the club owes P31,000 to a certain lodge in Mogoditshane and the owners have confirmed reporting the matter to the police. A search for Mogapi by the police has since started.
As if it was not enough, the players boycotted training on Tuesday and Wednesday. They took a petition to Mogapi’s residence in Gaborone but he was nowhere to be seen.
“There is no way we can continue playing while we are not taken care of by the club. We’ve not been paid since the season kicked off and some of the players have been kicked out of their houses. This is made even worse by the fact that Mogapi is nowhere to be seen. We only heard him on radio on Monday saying some of the things we have never entered into agreement with him. We’ll not train until our voices are heard,” said a Notwane player who wanted to remain anonymous.
In an interview on RB 2 on Monday evening, Mogapi dismissed some of the allegations leveled against him. He said that some of the people spreading misleading information about him are those who are bitter that he is in full control of the team.
“I had to rush to South Africa because my kid was not well. This goes to show you that some people do not have heart,” he said in an interview. He said that people must appreciate that he is the owner of Notwane FC and nothing will change. After he promised that he would meet Notwane – The mother body on Tuesday, the meeting never took place. As Notwane supporters continue to ponder the future of their team, the question remains. Is Mogapi the real deal or not? Only time will tell.