Bingu’s children withdraw Tigresses sponsorship

The four-year-old marriage between Tigresses Netball Club and late President Bingu wa Mutharika is finally over after the family announced it will no longer sponsor the team.

The late president rescued the then cash-strapped club in 1999 after staying for about three years without sponsorship following the withdrawal by ADMARC.

But after months of uncertainty hovering over the future of the sponsorship since the death of Mutharika, it has now been confirmed that Tigga, as the team is popularly known, will have to start hunting for a fresh sponsor.

Mutharika’s elder daughter, Tapiwa, told the club on Monday much as the family could have loved to continue supporting the club, they are not capable of doing so.

Tapiwa Mutharika: One of the administrators of Bingu's wealthy estate says its end of romance with Tigresses
Tapiwa Mutharika: One of the administrators of Bingu’s wealthy estate says its end of romance with Tigresses

“I have been made aware of your communications with Bineth Trust regarding your desire for continued financial assistance from Bineth Trust. We understand that our patron and founder of the Trust- the late Ngwazi Professor Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika had appeared to have made a commitment to Bingu Tigresses.

“Unfortunately with his passing and present political climate, we, the Mutharika’s, are battling to just keep his legacy going. In any other circumstances we would have loved to continue to support you but at this time we are unable to do so,” said Tapiwa in a letter sent to the club dated 19th August 2013 in Nyasa Times possession.

Tapiwa, who is the chairperson of Bineth Trust (Bingu and Ethel), however, prayed for the team’s continued success and hoped the team “will have favour in all that you endeavour to do.”

Tigresses’ response

Tigresses Team Manager Helene Mpinganjira while accepting the family’s decision said they were not bitter but instead thanked them for the support since the demise of Mutharika.

“We would like to thank you, for the support that was rendered to our team after the demise of our sponsor, late Bingu wa Mutharika, that today you have announced that you are unable to keep the legacy going,” responded Mpinganjira in a letter dated August 20, 2013 addressed to Tapiwa.

However, Mpinganjira expressed concern with Tapiwa’s unwillingness to meet the club officials on several occasions to clear the future of their sponsorship and a number of agreements made between the two parties.

“We had on several occasions contacted you, and advise you through your administrators that we were set but without much success,” the club reminded Tapiwa.

This, Mpinganjira said, resulted in officials convincing the players that the team was intact hence their continued use of Bingu’s name to continue with the legacy as agreed at one of their meetings (between the club and Tapiwa).

The team manager also reproached Tapiwa for failing to honour her pledge to buy the team second hand playing shoes and pay rentals for the girl’s hostels.

“This issue was not honoured by your side,” said Mpinganjira adding “Similarly, rentals for the hostel have not been paid up to now since January 2012, we have big arrears to settle.”

The official also said the club owed players allowances in training, home games, away games and incurred during the GOTV Netball 5 Champions League where it finished second with two of its players winning individual awards.

During the tournament, the team traveled twice from Blantyre to Lilongwe using public transport.

And according to Mpinganjira, the two trips to Lilongwe saw the team being accommodated at cheap lodges and using public transport to the venue of the games.

“We also owe training, game and away allowances to players and officials since last year. We also owe them transport allowances to training sessions and game days for the netball season,” she said.

During the same tourney held in Blantyre for four days, the team manager said the players were being forced to bring their own meals from homes because the team also owed College of Medicine bills for meals and drinks for first games and training days at the Sports Complex.

“Now that the agreement has finally been terminated, we would like you to consider that we do not have any income to meet these debts at the moment and that this termination has come in at the mid of the season when our players cannot transfer to other teams,” wrote Mpinganjira in the letter.

The club, which will now be just called Tigresses, has, however, requested Tapiwa to allow it have the bus to be using to raise funds to meet the club’s debts. Currently, the team bus, which was bought for the team by late Mutharika, is in Tapiwa’s custody.

“We believe this can possibly assist us generate finances for the team to start a new life.  We shall appreciate your kind consideration and information on when the bus can be collected,” said Mpinganjira.

Background to the sponsorship

Late Mutharika adopted Tigresses, considered one of the best netball sides around, on November 13th, 2009 after Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) withdrew its sponsorship.

At a function which took place at the New State House in Lilongwe now Kamuzu Palace, late Mutharika also changed the club name to Bingu Tigresses.

He also presented the team with a K10 million cheque donation, a brand new bus and K100 000 cash to each player.

Tigresses players during old good days with their sponsor late Bingu Wa Mutharika after he adopted the team
Tigresses players during old good days with their sponsor late Bingu Wa Mutharika after he adopted the team
Tigresses official Helen Mpinganjira: Allown us to keep the bus.Photo Jeromy Kadewere
Tigresses official Helen Mpinganjira: Allown us to keep the bus.Photo Jeromy Kadewere

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