OF HOMOSEXUALITY, SEXUAL HARASSMENT, SPECIAL STATUS FOR BARBARA BANDA, INCOMPETENCE OF MANAGEMENT AND BULLYING IN THE SHEPOLOPOLO AKA COPPER QUEENS
By Augustine Mukoka
From the outset, I must mention this is a very difficult conversation to have. In my current jurisdiction, you may be misconstrued for displaying homophobic tendencies if certain elements are not properly discussed. In Zambia, your behavior is inconsistent with the laws of the land if deemed to advocate or align yourself with such an orientation.
Opinion is divided across political, cultural, legal & religious lines.
I am not happy to be the bearer of this information. The subject is uncomfortable but it’s one we must have. As a country, we must look at ourselves in the mirror and ask, “is this what we want to be?”
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to state that issues of sexual abuse and sexual harassment are not easily established in black and white. It’s either victims confess, perpetrators are caught red handed, or discontentment grows. In rare cases, the ingenuity of the likes of Bana Bwalya in the recent viral video could help settle matters.
In the case I brought to the fore a couple of days ago concerning our Copper Queens, the discontentment even in the midst of the team scoring good results has created a prima facie case to inquire the rampant reports of sexual abuse and sexual harassment by some members of the technical bench, and among the girls themselves.
The information I have received so far is what I am relying on to question what is happening through this opinion. My appeal is to subject the matter to a thorough investigation to guarantee fairness, justice and affirm the credibility of the findings – including the protection of the victims. Those who will be required to speak, or are willing to come forth and discuss their experiences must equally be guaranteed the necessary protection from retribution.
This information has been collaborated with players, sports administrators and some journalists who have had difficulty publishing the articles because their editorial boards have ascertained they will distract the team’s performance.
These journalists may willingly testify provided they are assured of maximum protection.
Here is my starting point in question form.
FIKILE KHOSA – this Red Arrows defender made it to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. When the team returned, Fikile has never been called for Copper Queens duty. Has her performance on the pitch dipped so low that she can no longer make the grade? What type of relationship did she have with one of the male coaches? Why did that relationship create chaos in the team? Is her exclusion as a result of the infamous CAKEGATE scandal? If her exclusion has anything to do with her relationship with one of the male coaches, how was it handled? Who adjudicated the matter? What was the decision on the male coach? If the decision to exclude her was technical related, what is the explanation?
BESA CHIBWE – you and I know each other from your days as a national volleyball team player. I remember traveling to cover the Zone Six tournament in Harare 19 years ago. You were also on that team if I recollect well. You went on to become a lawyer. I have no doubt you are still practicing. Until recently, you were one of the longest TEAM MANAGERS for the team. Did you quit your position? Or were you relieved? Why? What was your relationship with the girls in the team? Where you undermined by any player? How well did you inspire the girls or manage them? Did you allow any of the girls to breach camp rules? Would you shed light on your incident with skipper Barbara Banda? Did you have a spat?
COACH ENALA PHIRI – chances are that some will say its sour grapes. I am not sure we have met. But you are the immediate past senior women’s national team coach. And you are one of the few to have publicly talked about sexual harassment in women’s soccer. To what extent did you try to bring it to the attention of the authorities? How much did you protect the entire team from degenerating into the chaos that they have become? What support did you get?
MONICA MWENDA – where are you? As a former team manager and women’s club official, what do you know about the team? What have you done to address issues of Lesbiansim and LGBTQ at both club and the national team? Where is the missing link? Why are male coaches being linked to sexual relationships with some players?
COACH FLORENCE – is there anything we should know from you about FIKILE KHOSA? Was she fairly treated? Put yourself in her shoes. Would you want to be treated the same way she was treated? What is your knowledge of male coaches having affairs with the players? What have you done about it?
BARBARA BANDA – skipper! What is happening in camp? Why are there sentiments of your fellow teammates physically fighting each other to grab your attention? I know you are our star player. You just banged in 10 goals at the COSAFA and you hold a good Olympic record for women football. Teammates would always want to learn a thing or two from you about how you do it on the pitch. However, is there another indoor ‘football’ skill set, like on the pitch, that you are teaching your teammates when at the hotel? What is your position on the issue of Lesbianism which is highly prevalent in the team? Why do you allegedly have different camp rules? Those women you have allegedly sneaked into camp, who are they?
COL. PRISCILLA KATOBA – I understand you’re new to the FAZ executive committee – in your second year if I am not mistaken. Have you not come across any information relating to male coaches having affairs with the girls? And I mean at all national teams? Have you not been informed about girls having open affairs with each others? Have you not been informed that some youngsters come with a sexual orientation deemed straight but by the time they depart, they are converted partly because they were coerced? Have you not gathered sufficient information about these threats that the girls endure and because they still want to come back, they fall in line? What have you done about it?
You will note that all the names mentioned are female. The reason is simple. Women rank high as moral agents for the girl child. As men, we may have a high rate of irresponsibility compared to women where nurturing children is concerned but that should not justify our stupidity towards Copper Queens players or our failure to zip our trousers whenever we see female players’ shorts as fathers.
As you prepare to respond, there’s only one question you all MUST not forget to include. “IF YOUR GIRL CHILD WAS AS TALENTED AS THE GIRLS IN THE TEAM AND MADE IT FOR SELECTION, WOULD YOU MODEL THEM ON THE SAME VALUES, PRINCIPLES & CULTURE OF THE CURRENT COPPER QUEENS?”
Mr. ANDREW KAMANGA – what ethical value have you added to the team over these matters? Are the ethics you’re practicing similar to what the Father of Ethics, Aristotle, propounded in his famous Nicomachean Theory? Are there any ethos or logos in your conduct? Are you sure issues of Lesbianism and LGBTQ have not been brought to your attention? Haven’t club officials raised these issues on WhatsApp groups where you and your executive committee members belong? What does your silence on those platforms about such allegations amount to? And please don’t hide behind the lame excuse of lack of evidence because we all know how difficult these incidences are to prove but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist! They are rife in the team!
HON. MINISTER ELVIS NKANDU – I am grateful to learn you have taken interest in these issues. I am informed you made inquiries for my contact details. Rest assured, I do have your contact number. However, having a two-man conversation will not be good enough to establish the extent of the problem. The information in public domain is good enough to compel you and the Zambian authorities to institute an independent Commissioning of Inquiry of eminent members of society to sift through these allegations and statements that should compel FAZ officials to also testify. They can’t handle the investigations because they’re an interested party. If I were you, I would write to NGOCC, LAZ, Women in Law, NOWSPAR and FIFA among others, as an example, to form a committee to independently investigate these issues.
Not only that, ask technocrats in your Ministry of Sports to avail you with a copy of a study titled “Gender-Based Violence In Zambian Sport: Prevalence And Prevention” that was done by three individuals namely Kari Fasting, Diane Huffman and Trond Svela Sand. The study was funded by the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation Of Sports about eight years ago.
According to the study which focused on 8 sports disciplines in the country with FAZ being one of them, 410 athletes were interviewed which included 190 women and 220 men born in 2000 and before and 116 coaches were factored in, 31 of whom were women and 85 men.
The findings were summarized in three main categories of which harassment and abuse in Zambia sport seem to be endemic. About 78% of the athletes experienced verbal abuse, 69% suffered sexual harasment , sexual abuse was at 37% and physical abuse at 31%. A summary of the report which included names of the perpetrators was submitted to the Zambia Police but it is the victims who were warned and suffered the humiliation and indignity of discussing a closely guarded issue. Since that report, incidents have increased and become worse. Where did the Zambia Police take the summary and what did they do with it? Your guess is as good as mine.
They let us down on this issue in the same way they failed Americans when they hastily declared and closed the case of Pennsylvania dentist Dr. Lawrence Rudolph who murdered his wife Bianca Rudolph in the Kafue National Park.
It was not until the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came to Lusaka to unpack the incident and established it was in fact a case of homicide. The FBI went on to secure a conviction using only circumstantial evidence.
That’s besides the point. It nonetheless shows you the gigantic obstacle of mounting a successful investigation in the absence of strong political will. There is sufficient ground and witnesses out there to commence an inquiry possibly under Oath to settle the sexual scandal in the Copper Queens and open a new page. We all are sinners and have fallen short of God’s glory, after all.
May we redeem the reputation of our sports failure to which posterity will never be kind to us.