The story of Moroka Swallows is well known – a Soweto giant that fell from grace, then brought back from the non-professional ranks by a fairly unknown businessman after an impressive boardroom campaign by politician Panyaza Lesufi.
What is not known is how the management team behind the club pulled off what is probably the first such revival in the PSL era. The journey included the buying of two clubs in two different leagues, as well as the purchase of the intellectual property rights of the Soweto powerhouse at an auction.
Far from the regular status-buying transactions that are common in local football, the story of the rise of the Dube Birds is something that will be remembered for generations to come, both on and off the field.
City Press sat down with the man behind the money that saved Swallows from extinction, David Mogashoa.
Mogashoa and his team, which includes Gauteng education MEC Lesufi, pulled off the historic comeback.
Mogashoa said that, after the team was relegated in 2015, former owner Leon Prins called Lesufi and offered him the then highly indebted club.
“With two games remaining in the season, Prins called Lesufi and offered him the club as he was one of the more passionate fans. Without any paperwork, he was just given the club. So Panyaza has been running with this thing since then,” said Mogashoa, an ardent Swallows supporter.
“We kept communicating because we have known each other for years. So when he said I should come on board, I was naturally reluctant, obviously because of the heavy debt.”
With the creditors lining up and Lesufi knocking on potential investors’ doors, the club was eventually liquidated after its long list of creditors, with claims totalling about R25 million, approached the courts.
“The team owed a lot of money to a lot of people – from stadium management to former employees and the SA Revenue Service. After the club went through liquidation, eventually the debt was minimised and we settled some of the debts, except one we did not know of, the Fifa one,” he said, in reference to the money owed to Brazilian player Igor Alves, who had lodged a dispute with Fifa.
“People think it is Fifa that is preventing us from using Moroka – it’s not. We are just being careful because we don’t want to be found wanting and then be docked points. Our immediate aim is promotion [to the premier division],” he said, adding that Alves was owed almost $15 000 four years ago. Calculated using today’s rand exchange rate, but excluding interest, this amounts to about R270 000.
In October, when the liquidators were finalising the liquidation process, Mogashoa bought Moroka Swallows’ intellectual property rights and set the ball rolling to revive the club.
“After buying the intellectual property, the next step was to find a status to buy, and then we ended up buying Maccabi as it was and not just the status,” he said.
The club was bought for more than R1.5 million from the liquidators.
After purchasing Maccabi, Mogashoa said he was advised to rather use the Swallows FC name instead of Moroka Swallows to err on the side of caution pending the resolution of the Fifa complaint by Alves.
So Mogashoa sold Swallows FC and its ABC Motsepe League status, and took the name to Maccabi for a swap. He confirmed that Maccabi cost R8.5 million.
“The ABC Motsepe League team [where Swallows last campaigned] is now known as Orange Vaal Professional. So we sold the team back to the people we bought it from in 2016, without the name and brought the name to the NFD,” he said.
In 1996, after matriculating, he headed to Johannesburg to look for a job in 1996.
“My mother, who was a domestic worker, could not afford [to pay] university [fees] so I came to Johannesburg and stayed with her in Bedfordview,” he said.
His first job was as a packer at a butchery, but he only lasted for six months before he went job-hunting again.
“I first went to Edgars and was told my English was not good enough. Then I went to Foschini. The following day, someone did not come to work and, after that day, they employed me and, six months later, I was promoted.”
In 1999, he worked as a sales rep for a copier company before moving again to join fleet company Imperial, where he moved up the ladder until he was a dealer principal.
“In 2009, I decided to go solo and start my own business, Bahwiti, working from home.”
Through Bahwiti, Mogashoa specialised in tyre fitness and related services. He later focused on corporate trucking companies.
“There was a time when the business was shaky as the corporates were delaying payments. I almost quit to go and look for a job. Luckily, the business picked up,” he said.
The business has evolved into an innovative fitment service that supplies parts to the heavy-duty vehicle market, including excavators and graders.
The business has expanded and has two subsidiaries, Bahwiti Construction and Bahwiti Security Services.
“I love cars, but my passion is making sure the cars don’t break down. I’m not a mechanic and don’t even know how most machines work. But I am a businessperson – I know what the machines are supposed to do and what skills are needed.
“I also don’t know much about soccer, but I know business and I surround myself with people who know soccer,” he said.
His biggest motivation is a fear of failure because, having tasted poverty, he knows he has learnt life lessons, and he won’t let them go to waste
Mogashoa also said that there was still another Moroka Swallows team, which was under Bernard Mtshali and Sho Xulu’s control, plying its trade in the non-professional ranks in Roodepoort.
This is the same team that was relegated, with the last demotion from the ABC Motsepe in 2017 coming as a result of a Fifa sanction.
“The plan is to eventually make it our development side because we are part of the same family. Moroka Swallows never died. When people said it died, they meant it was no longer professional,” said Mogashoa.
Under the current NFD club, Xulu is the chief executive, Lesufi is the president and Mogashoa is the chairperson.
He said that, as a business strategy, he did not want to collaborate with other interested businesspeople on the venture as the possible complications were not worth the trouble.
With the NFD team receiving a meagre R500 000 monthly grant, Mogashoa said the recently signed apparel sponsorship with Umbro, as well as IT Technology, would go a long way towards providing a financial cushion for the season.
“The brand is very rich because even sponsors are attracted to us. So I am hopeful that we will be soaring in the PSL soon,” he said.
Unfortunately, their life in the NFD has not started well – they just have one point after losing two of their three games.
But Mogashoa is optimistic about the future.