The scandals and dirty laundry at Moroka Swallows keep coming to light, as Nhlanhla Shabalala, secretary-general of the South African Players Union (Safpu), disclosed that one of the Dube Birds stars was made to pay for his own surgery by the club.
This comes after it was revealed in a leaked statement that Swallows would be cutting the contracts of 22 players who were allegedly at the forefront of the walkout that resulted in the cancellation of two DStv Premiership games between Mamelodi Sundowns and Golden Arrows.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Safpu addressed some of the underlying problems with Swallows not paying player salaries and signing-on fees.
One of the club’s longest-serving players had to pay for his own surgery, according to Shabalala, who played for both Swallows and the now-defunct Ajax Cape Town.
A player paid for his knee operation
“Wandisile Letlabika had to pay for his own knee operation because the club did not want to assist with that,” Shabalala told Sunday World.
“This is despite the fact that one of the conversations we had was with Letlabika, as documented.
“We know how this works. The team covers medical expenses and helps you through the recovery process if you are injured. In the end, the club will make a claim for the money from Delphisure insurance.
“Moroka Swallows has not done that. And that is what the players go through, and nobody seems to care or look into that.
“These players appear to be lacking in self-control; they act whenever and however they please.
“We must also understand that playing football is very painful in South Africa nowadays, given the treatment that the players are suffering. Not just at Moroka Swallows, but all over the place.”
Letlabika is one of the 22 players facing the sharp end of an axe amid the salary and signing-on fees saga.
The 34-year-old veteran defender missed most parts of the last DStv Premiership season due to an injury and has only made one appearance so far this season.
Borrowing money from friends and family
In addition, Shabalala claimed that the difficulties faced by the once-dominant Dube Birds have persisted for years and that players would even borrow money from friends and family in order to attend practices.
“This has taken a long time to come about because the players would beg under Ernst Middendorp’s coaching, saying that they would not be able to make it to training because they had run out of money after borrowing from friends and family and trying every other option. The team has not been paying us for months.”
He continued: “Now that all of those players have received fines from the club, you can see what kind of barbaric behaviour we are dealing with — a behavior that aims to disregard and undermine these players’ contracts.”