Angry Wits employees shocked after 99-year-old club's sale: 'we were the last to know'

Bidvest Wits management team in a huddle during the 2016/17 Absa Premiership winning season.
Bidvest Wits management team in a huddle during the 2016/17 Absa Premiership winning season.
Image: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Employees of Bidvest Wits are shocked at the manner in which owning company Bidvest allegedly kept the club in the dark about the now-confirmed sale of its Premier Division franchise to Masala Mulaudzi.

Various sources from within Wits‚ who did not want to be named‚ said the club's employees and management are angry that a buyer could not have been found to preserve the 99-year-old club‚ the oldest existing team in the Premier Soccer League's (PSL) top-flight Premier Division or GladAfrica Championship first division.

The sources told TimesLIVE that the first indications the management had of a sale was via phone calls from the media asking if a deal existed.

They said they found out about the deal being closed in the past weekend's media reports.

A source said that the Wits management were getting calls from the media asking if the club was being sold‚ and when they approached Bidvest for clarification they were told: "'If we are for sale you guys will be the first to know'".

The source added: "But we were the last to know."

"We found out about it on Sunday via the news reports‚" they said.

The management were kept under the impression that business was continuing as normal to the extent that they renewed the contracts of "about five" players in recent weeks‚ and signed two more on pre-contracts for the coming season.

The sale of Wits was confirmed by Mulaudzi‚ the owner of Limpopo-based GladAfrica Championship team Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC (TTM)‚ on Saturday night.

There are major points of concern that have shocked the employees and management of Wits about the manner in which the club was sold.

The sources said the employees have been left angry that a club that has such a long and pedigreed history interwoven into the story of South African football‚ and which was at the forefront of pathfinding interracial football in the late 1970s and 1980s‚ could not be sold to a buyer wanting to preserve the team.

Wits‚ founded in 1921‚ would have turned 100 next year.

Mulaudzi has confirmed his intention is to rename the PSL franchise of Wits to TTM and move the team from Johannesburg to Thohoyandou.

The TTM owner has made open admissions that he will not be able to afford some players‚ and coach Gavin Hunt‚ who are on higher salaries‚ so they will be free to go.

Wits' employees and management‚ the sources said‚ are angry that a club that was built up to be among the most competitive in the Premier Division in the last six years was sold apparently so hastily to a buyer who has admitted he cannot pay top salaries.

They are shocked by a revelation by SA Football Players Union president Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe in an interview with SAfm that: "We are surprised that TTM has money to buy a status.

"We don't know where they got it from‚ because on June 4 they were struggling to pay players. In fact they were one of the first clubs to introduce salary cuts due to Covid-19."

The sale of Wits was apparently concluded by club chief executive Alan Fainman‚ who is also CEO of Bidvest Services.

Fainman became chief executive of Bidvest Wits when Brian Joffe‚ the driver behind the company's large-scale investment into the club that resulted in their best period of performance in the last six years‚ retired as CEO of Bidvest in September 2017.

In four-time Premiership winner Hunt's seven years at the club Wits won their first league title in their then 95-year history winning the Absa Premiership in 2016-17.

They finished third‚ third‚ second‚ first‚ 13th and third under Hunt and won the 2016 MTN8 and 2017 Telkom Knockout.

They were in sixth place when the PSL suspended the 2019-20 Premiership season due to the coronavirus on March 16.

Fainman could not be reached for comment.