CAPS United descended into chaos yesterday, triggered by a sensational fallout over unpaid salaries, forcing police to come in and resolve the ugly stand-off.
Club vice-president, Nhamo Tutisani, came close to being manhandled by a group of players at his offices in Harare.
At one point, the players and the Harare businessman exchanged some harsh words, including insults, on a dark day for the Green Machine.
Before the arrival of the police, Tutisani sought refuge in his office in Eastlea, while the CAPS United players barricaded the exit point with their cars.
Some bouncers, led by a former member of the Dynamos security team, Abraham Kwenda, also arrived at the scene to try and resolve the impasse.
The bouncers did not use force, in their interactions with the players, but chose diplomacy in persuading them to leave the business premises and let the club’s leaders find ways to deal with their concerns.
The players, who claim they have not been paid their salaries for up to two months, pitched up at Tutisani’s offices demanding to be paid their outstanding dues.
The stand-off is centred on the $480 000 which CAPS received from NetOne, upon the termination of their sponsorship deal, which the players wanted to be used to settle their salaries. The money is enough to cover about two months of the salaries.
The players say they received advice from their colleagues from Bosso, a club which received a similar payment from NetOne, that they had been paid some of their dues.
CAPS paid the players just a month’s salary on Friday.
Yesterday, the situation quickly degenerated into chaos with the two parties trading accusations, which, at some point, saw Tutisani threatening winger Phineas Bhamusi and striker John Zhuwawu with expulsion from the club.
In response, the players demanded to either be paid or given clearance, terminating their relationship with the Green Machine, claiming the club had failed to honour their contracts.
The players included the new names who were acquired at the beginning of the year like Tatenda Tumba, Carlos Mavhurume, Innocent Muchaneka and Ishmael Wadi.
Some of the old guards, who besieged the businessman’s offices, included midfielder Ronald “Rooney” Chitiyo.
Tutisani first ordered the players to leave his business premises but, when they refused, things got really heated with insults being traded by the two parties.
During the confrontation, the businessman said he was not going to address the players as they had defied his directive to come in groups of five, as a measure to ensure they also didn’t defy the authorities’ directives meant to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Attempts by the two parties to find a common ground, amid the melee, failed.
When the talking could not provide a solution, Tutisani retreated to his office but the players refused to leave the premises.
Though the security personnel manning the gate had initially stood their ground, keeping the players out, they were eventually overpowered as the players bulldozed their way into the premises.
Ironically, at CAPS United, Tutisani had been praising the players for their apparent understanding of the club’s plight as they try to deal with the challenges brought about by football activities being put on halt and the withdrawal of their primary sponsors.
“We have understood the plight of our team for a long time,’’ a representative of the players said. “We are not anti-football. Some of us grew up supporting CAPS United and we have been very tolerant.
“But, it has now reached a level when we can no longer accept those lame excuses.
“We know there was some money that came in which was supposed to pay us our dues but we only had a month’s salary deposited into our accounts and the management said they will stagger the payments.
“We have given them a long rope and we have even been telling each other, in our groups, to understand our club’s plight.
“But, this is how they have decided to reward us. Tutisani is threatening to manhandle some of us. He is threatening to fire some of us, we are so disappointed.’’
For a club, which has been preaching professionalism as the gateway to commercialisation, which they have said is their thrust from this year, yesterday’s ugly altercation was a step back into the dark ages.
In the era of social media, an audio recorded during the melee, was soon trending yesterday.
“We acknowledge that we owe the players money but we don’t condone the manner they are expressing their disgruntlement,” Tutisani told our sister newspaper, Sunday Mail Online.
“We are seized with the matter and we have already started dealing with the issue.
“We have a programme in place whereby we will be attending to players in tranches because of Covid-19 restrictions and we are surprised with the manner the players are behaving.
“The institution will not be served well by this kind of behaviour, this kind of behaviour scares away investors and takes away the verve from those running around to save the situation.”
A member of the club’s management team, who only spoke on condition of anonymity, said they have been trying to balance their books in a delicate and tough environment.
“We are aware of the players’ plight. They have families to look after, they have rentals to pay and what we pay them is already little given the rising costs of basics but then, we are also a club which need to sustain itself,’’ he said.
“So, we are addressing everything as we go.
“You know, we have been running around every day to try and motivate the players. We have received donations from some well-wishers twice during this lockdown period and, as you already know, last week we delivered goodies, including 50 kilogramme bags of maize meal just to show that we are very concerned about their welfare.”
This is the umpteenth time Makepekepe players have revolted over unpaid salaries. They refused to train, in the run-up to the last two games of the 2019 season, which saw them losing focus, at a crucial time in the championship race, and also losing their final two matches against Ngezi Platinum Stars and eventual champions FC Platinum.