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Who’s Seconded, Anyway?

"The term 'secondment' describes where an employee or a group of employees is assigned on a temporary basis to work for another, 'host' organisation, or a different part of their employer’s organisation. On expiry of the secondment term, the employee (the 'secondee') will 'return' to their original employer." 

That’s the definition of the buzzword "seconded", according to Google. A term that was thrust into popularity by Orlando Pirates Football Club last week. 

'Seconded' was on everyone’s lips last week, following Pirates’ announcement that assistant coach, Rhulani Mokwena, had "been seconded to join Absa Premiership outfit Chippa United… until the end of the season". Mokwena was to take over from former Zimbabwean international, Norman Mapeza, who resigned from the Chilli Boys’ hot seat notwithstanding the good progress he had made. Bucs’ statement sent shockwaves across the South African football fraternity, with many in disbelief. "Can a coach be loaned out?" "How can Pirates announce a new Chippa coach?" "What does ‘seconded’ mean?" are just some of the questions that caused a lot of confusion on social media.

What became vividly clear, though, was the fact that a lot of people seemed of the opinion that the transaction between the two clubs was of underhand nature. Although it wasn’t said in so many words, it became quite clear that the masses felt the Iron Duke and Chippa were doing as they pleased. People couldn’t fathom the fact that Pirates would assign Mokwena to Chippa, this time of the season. First of all, coaches are not bound by the transfer window period, otherwise, there’d be coach-less teams when clubs and coaches decided to part ways either amicably or otherwise, halfway through the season. A case in point, Cavin Johnson and Mapeza wouldn’t be eligible for any consideration for new jobs until the end of the season if coaches couldn’t change teams outside of the transfer period. Unlike footballers, coaches come and go at any given time of the season. Musical chairs.

What makes Mokwena’s situation different to any other coach movement or transactions between two clubs is the fact that he’s still contracted to Pirates! Yes, he may not have been part of the club’s technical team since last year – and there’s no way he was going to re-join Josef Zinnbauer’s technical team after his study leave – but he’s still in the employ of Pirates. Furthermore, by virtue of being contracted to Pirates, Mokwena is still on Pirates’ payroll and, chances are, that’s what sparked the conversation between the two club chairmen. For Dr. Irvin Khoza – there’s a talented young coach who is sitting on the sidelines without any immediate role to play in the senior team. "Do I interfere with the current head coach and enforce Mokwena to his technical team? Do I keep Mokwena in isolation or try to find him something to keep him busy until the end of the season, when we sit down and reconsider his future at the club?" For Siviwe Mpengesi – "My coach has just resigned, I urgently need someone to fill in the void as we can’t afford to take any chances with relegation this season. Let me call around and see what I can come up with." 

That was the two club bosses’ headache until this opportunity presented itself. 

The bottom line is that these two chairmen needed each other and it comes as no surprise that even Mokwena himself is on the record saying that he doesn’t really know the finer details of his move. He’s more like 'a victim of circumstances' and I honestly see nothing wrong with one club’s assistant coach, who is not part of the current technical team, being 'loaned out' to help a team in need. For all we know, you might find that Chippa will not spend a cent on Mokwena with Pirates continuing to pay his salary, which would explain the "seconded" term used by the club in their official announcement of the move. That would also explain why Pirates reserved the right to break the news by confirming it first on their website before the Port Elizabeth-born team could let the news be known. The two teams didn’t break any rule/s by engaging in this sort of an agreement and therefore there’s absolutely nothing untoward about it. Mokwena will get the much-needed 'game-time' while helping Chippa to move away from the relegation zone and maintain their Absa Premiership status. It is a win-win for all parties involved, a case of supply and demand.

The difference between a player and a coach being loaned out is simply in the terms used and the finer details involved. The transaction between Pirates and Chippa is the exact same as the one between Kaizer Chiefs and Polokwane City, but termed differently. What are you talking about? I can hear you asking. Kabelo Mahlasela was loaned out to Polokwane by Chiefs until the end of the season, while he’s still contracted to the Naturena-based club. City are not paying the player’s salary. His salary notification SMS remains the same as when he was still in the colours of the Glamour Boys. Mahlasela could be getting paid a few days before his current teammates, as teams have different dates to process their payments. He continues to get his salary from Chiefs because Amakhosi had an unused but talented player who was desperate for game-time, while City were in a desperate need for quality and depth. 

One team had what the other needed and, eventually, they both got what they both needed – depth for one and game-time for the other. It made perfect sense for them to give each other what they needed, but it was, obviously, termed differently, although Chiefs would be within their rights to say they’ve "seconded" Mahlasela to City. Jeremy Brockie is on loan at Maritzburg United from Mamelodi Sundowns, but he’s still getting his salary from Sundowns. The Chloorkop-based club, unlike Chiefs, decided to put a clause that prohibits the striker from playing against them, which is something chairman Farook Kadodia’s team had no problem with. These are just two of the player movement examples, but there are plenty more that can be mentioned. It is all in the definition and the finer details that are seldom made public. So, who’s seconded anyway?





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