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How Big Bullets ownership failed in 2007

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TNM Super League defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets have for the past month or so, been asking their sponsor, Nyasa Manufacturing Company (NMC), to take over ownership of the club.

The call was first made at a meeting aimed at resolving differences that arose among the club’s executive committee members in the pre-season.

A week after the season kicked-off, captain Chiukepo Msowoya and supporters’ committee chairperson, Stone Mwamadi, repeated the call during a luncheon in Blantyre, saying the arrangement would be the only way to bring lasting peace to the club.

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A meeting involving what were said to be chairpersons of Bullets supporters committees from several districts endorsed the idea.

In reaction, NMC director, Dimitri Kalaitzis, said it was an honour for the company to be asked to own the club, but indicated that they did not want to jump any process in acquiring the club.

The team’s executive committee and trustees have not expressed themselves clearly on the matter, opting to convene a meeting that would fully discuss the pros and cons of such a move.

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Another group of the club’s fans, led by former chairman, Kondi Msungama, is vehemently opposing the take-over calls, threatening to take the matter to court.

Msungama maintains that the club is owned by the community and no one has the mandate to hand it over to any entity.

“There is a good reason why this team is called the People’s Team. It appears some people are misleading themselves on this matter. I will personally fight to keep the team from being owned by anyone,” said Msungama, who was forced out as Bullets chairperson a season ago after plunging the team into debts, which are still haunting the club.

A look at events surrounding the departure of former owners, Msiska twins, Fumu and Phaskani, trading under Cifu Group, tells a story of stakeholders joining hands to frustrate an investor-whether rightly or wrongly.

It was said to be an investment deal and was struck in January, 2007.

Cifu promised to invest K60 million in the team for three years. Cifu then ‘bought’ the club at K100,000 which then Vice-General Secretary, Chimwemwe Nyirenda, said was just the value which Cifu used to register the club as a limited company.

Registration took place on March 22, 2007, with 100,000 shares. Fumu and Phaskani contributed 50,000 shares each.

The registered entity’s Certificate of Incorporation indicated that the share capital of the company was K100,000 divided into 100,000 shares of K1 each with power to increase or reduce such capital.

The certificate prohibited the company from making any invitation to the public to acquire any of its shares or debentures.

To formalise the transaction, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the two parties.

The then Cifu Group’s Administration and Finance Manager, Hilton Misomali, said the MoU empowered Cifu to hold a 100 percent stake in the club for three years before opening up to the public to subscribe in 49 percent of shareholding.

“When a company is sold, it is the valuation of assets that forms the basis for the value of the company being sold. Cifu were at liberty to peg Bullets at any amount even lower than K100,000,” Misomali told a press briefing.

He said the new registered company was pegged at K100,000 to avoid higher stamp duty

But the marriage between the two was soon to hit the rocks after Bullets executive committee members expressed concerns that the company was yet to sign a contract with the club and that it was keeping details of their MoU under wraps.

The bad blood between the two camps became evident when the entire executive shunned a press conference convened by Cifu on April 10, 2007, to address issues based on the company’s originality.

Bullets chairperson at the time, Hassam Jussab, said he was not aware of the meeting, and gave Cifu a seven-day ultimatum to clear the air surrounding the MoU.

Bullets supporters followed with a threat to derail the company’s affairs, accusing Cifu of failing to fulfill financial obligations with the club.

Another bone of contention was reported to be the lack of clarity on contracts offered to players.

The feud took a turn for the worse when Cifu resolved to leave out members of the executive committee from the team’s new administration after accusing them of incompetence and failing to account for some funds.

Jussab himself took the lead in demanding that the company leaves the club.

A court order was obtained, restraining Cifu from dealing with the club in any way.

“The club has suffered a lot because of Cifu’s unfulfilled financial promises,” Jussab was quoted as saying.

The club’s players and technical team summoned the company to a meeting at Kamuzu Stadium where, as Phaskani and his staff were addressing the gathering, the club’s supporters confronted them-asking them to leave forthwith.

This was followed by a supporters march to an oil marketing firm, Petroda, that had shown interest to sign a five-year sponsorship deal worth K125 million, asking the company to take over the club immediately.

The march ended at Cifu’s office where the fans dropped a petition for the company to pull out and pave the way for the new sponsor.

Cifu responded by saying that the pullout would only be possible if the new sponsor reimbursed about K5 million that they had spent on the club.

But Jussab hit back, reiterating that Cifu should be the ones to pay Bullets for the damage caused by the company’s failure to honour pledges made in the MoU.

“If they had invested the promised K60 million, things would not have reached that extent. They have completely destroyed the team,” Jussab said.

Cifu succumbed, saying they had decided to discontinue their business venture due to ‘too much non-compliance by the executive committee itself on the provisions stipulated in the memorandum of understanding.’

But as the red-and-white side of town was celebrating that at Cifu had bowed down to pressure, Jussab had some sad news to break to the club’s faitful– -that Petroda would not take over the club as they had received an anonymous letter warning them against sponsoring Bullets, who were linked to former president Bakili Muluzi.

Late Bingu wa Mutharika was in power at the time and the two were in bad books.

But a few weeks ago, Mwamadi said the supporters had learnt their lesson and would not interfere with the running of the club once NMC takes over.

“Today’s Bullets supporter is different from the supporter of those days. We have become more responsible and we know our limits. We know that our responsibility is to give the team moral and vocal support wherever and whenever it plays,” Mwamadi said.

Recently, Nyasa signed a five-year partnership agreement with the club worth K500 million.

Other entities that have also sponsored Bullets before are Bata Shoe Company and Total Malawi. Bullets Holdings Limited that had managed the club after Muluzi stopped supporting it has also waded into the matter, claiming it still legally owns the club.

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