Shauwn Mkhize. Picture: Instagram
Shauwn Mkhize. Picture: Instagram

Royal AM club scores eThekwini Municipality funding, partnership deal aimed at boosting tourism, brand exposure

By Sibusiso Mboto Time of article published Sep 29, 2021

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DURBAN - THE eThekwini Municipality is set to enter into a multimillion-rand partnership deal with Royal AM Football Club.

The financial implication of the deal is R15.75 million, to be paid over a three-year period, with R5.25m per year being paid to the club.

However, the deal was questioned by the DA, which said that Royal AM was owned by businesswoman Shauwn Mkhize and, therefore, did not need investment from the city.

A report setting out reasons for the deal said that the partnership presented the city, particularly Durban Tourism, with abundant marketing opportunities through which it could engage with potential tourists from across the country.

The report said the inclusion of another football team from the province in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) offered the city great economic benefits as it would host more league games.

In terms of the deal, the city is seeking brand exposure in terms of advertising and promotion of Durban Tourism activities.

During the executive council (Exco) meeting yesterday, DA councillors Nicole Graham and Thabani Mthethwa questioned how the city would benefit by pumping money into the football club, whose owner is known for owning a mansion and top-of-the-range luxury vehicles.

Graham contended that the city did not have a lot of money to spare as its revenue generation had been hampered by the Covid-19 lockdown.

She argued that Mkhize had enough money and the football club was her “vanity project”.

“Royal AM owners made money from tenders from the city and have excessive amounts of money. We don’t have money to pour into somebody’s vanity project. This is completely mad,” said the DA councillor.

She pointed out that the move was not about football development or unearthing local talent.

The channelling of city funds to the club, Graham contended, displayed a peculiar hold that the football club owner had on the city.

“Once again the crooked politics of the ANC are on full display,” she concluded.

ANC councillor Ntokozo Sibiya charged that the DA’s opposition simply reflected its attitude towards “black excellence and success”.

“It is worrisome that when a black child succeeds, one party raises questions,” she contended.

Mayor and Exco chairperson Mxolisi Kaunda said he had known that the DA would comment and even object on the matter, but stressed that the move to sponsor Royal AM was based on the long-standing principle of sponsoring the city’s sports teams.

“When you look at how we have handled the sponsoring of teams, you will note that we give R4m (per year) to the Sharks rugby team, and R3.5m (per year) to AmaZulu and Lamontville Golden Arrows,” said the mayor.

AmaZulu and Arrows, like Royal AM, also play in the Premier Soccer League.

He added that through the deal with the rugby team the city had a wider platform to market itself as the team also played international teams.

The mayor said the issue of wealth was not relevant, and questioned how wealthy the Sharks owners were compared with the Royal AM owner.

“To say MaMkhize has a lot of money, you need to take a look at the owners of the Sharks,” Kaunda concluded.

Economic Development and Planning Committee chairperson Sipho Kaunda, who also supported the proposal for the cash injection, said the move would broaden the scope in which the city was able to market itself.

Mkhize rose to prominence after her company, Zikhulise Construction, scored tenders for housing construction in KwaDukuza (Stanger) and in eThekwini some years ago.

Mkhize has also been known for hosting parties at her home in La Lucia, north of Durban, with leading figures such as Minister Bheki Cele featuring on the guest list.

Aside from this, Mkhize has also featured in the media for her philanthropic work.

Mkhize initially owned Royal Eagles with her then-husband Sbu Mpisane when the team played in the National First Division.

Following her divorce from Mpisane, Mkhize bought another club, Real Kings, and renamed it Royal AM, setting ambitions of having the team playing in the PSL.

When the plan failed last year, she bought financially troubled Bloemfontein Celtic and immediately changed its name to Royal AM and moved its headquarters to KwaZulu-Natal, in a move that did not sit well with Celtic supporters.

Aside from Mato Madlala, also from Durban, Mkhize is one of a few women to own a football club that plays topflight football.

The recommendation to approve the partnership deal was passed by Exco after all ANC councillors supported it while the DA opposed it.

The matter will now be tabled at a full council sitting where it is likely to be approved owing to the ANC’s majority in the council.

THE MERCURY

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