Mbabane: Dearly departed former Mbabane Swallows CEO Sibusiso Manana once said this to me when referring to coach Thabo ‘Koki’ Vilakati, “Yemkhaya, phela ‘Koki’ ngumuntfu we Highlanders. Masiya ku camp, silala sivale liso linye.”
It was loosely translated as, “Homie, ‘Koki’ is a Highlanders person. When we go for camp we sleep with one eye open”.
That was Manana for you. Always in his jocular self, sending everyone around him in stitches almost effortlessly in his gravel, weekend was hard voice.
Manana, the best Chief Executive Officer and club spokesperson of his generation passed on in May 2017. His funeral at his home area in Mbasheni, in rural northern Hhohho was pushed forward by a week as Mbabane Swallows had to travel to Tunisia for a Total CAF Champions League clash against CS Sfaxien. It was a Total CAF Champions League group match for the history making Swallows side.
Club boss Victor Gamedze spoke fondly of Manana during his memorial at Mbabane Alliance Church, even going on to pledge huge sums of money to the deceased family. That is a story for another day.
In January 2018, Gamedze was shot dead in one of the merciless public assassinations seen in the kingdom. From Mbasheni, the Swallows and football family at large had to travel east in KaLanga to bury the most visionary leader Eswatini football has had since Independene Day. Mind you, the country will be celebrating 52 years of Independence from British colony on Sunday, September 6.
At the time of his demise, Gamedze and his generals had sent Swallows to their second successive group stage apearence in the continent, this time in the form of the second tier Total CAF Confederation Cup.
Now, two generals had passed on in less than a year. It is no wonder the red and white giants went on a downward spiral ever since, especially after ‘Koki’ was shown the exit door. Maybe or partly because of what Manana once said to me about ‘Koki’ being a Highlanders person.
On the early hours of last Friday, the third general of the four passed on. ‘Koki’, as reported succumbed to Covid-19 related complications.
On Saturday, September 5, the bowels of this earth will open up to swallow the most decorated coach of the last decade.
Sandile ‘Beyond 2000’ Zwane, the life-long Swallows General Manager surely looks at the last three years with teary eyes. It is no secret that Zwane, along with the late Manana, Gamedze and Vilakati were the driving force of the all conquering Mbabane Swallows.
Zwane wrote immediately after Vilakati’s death spread like wild fire on social media that, “I’m shuttered and confused to the passing away of one of my generals. With your leadership, we have conquered Eswatini and some super countries in Africa. You made Swallows what it is today. You are loved by all at Swallows Mphephetse and may your soul rest in peace. You’ll always be in our thoughts”.It was a moving tribute by Zwane.
It finally rings a bell that empires do not fall, they crumble brick by brick. Rest in peace coachara!