Given the gravity of allegations that Kuda Mahachi faced, football stakeholders can be forgiven for giving him the cold shoulder. One cannot hurt a child and get away with it.
Considering that football is a family sport, players carry a huge responsibility and when SuperSport United let him loose, they were showing regard for child rights rather than snubbing him for the sake of it. Football clubs are brands, to bring your club into disrepute, is the height of irresponsibility, is disrespectful, even suicidal.
But who is Mahachi and what triggered his fall from grace?
Mahachi is arguably one of the most accomplished footballers in Zimbabwe.
The diminutive midfielder is one only four Zimbabwean players to have taken part in three different Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.
He was part of Kalisto Pasuwa’s Warriors squad at the Gabon 2017 finals and he also took part in the 2019 and 2021 tournaments under Sunday ‘Mhofu’ Chidzambga and Norman Mapeza respectively.
When he netted Zimbabwe’s second goal in the last group game against Guinea in the 2021 eddition in Cameroon, the 29-year-old became the second Zimbabwean player to score at two different Afcon finals—after Knowledge Musona.
At club level, locally, Mahachi played for Bantu Rovers, Highlanders and Chicken Inn.
In South Africa, the pint-sized midfielder turned out for DStv Premiership giants Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns, as well as Golden Arrows and SuperSport United.
In 2014 Mahachi went for a trial stint at AS Monaco and even impressed, but the French top-flight club could not agree on a transfer fee with Sundowns, who owned the player then.
That’s just how good the Bulawayo-raised midfielder is. A darling of football fans in Zimbabwe.
But his once-promising career is now in jeopardy after a huge scandal which started in May this year.
The former Mzilikazi High School student was accused by his ex-wife Maritha Ndlovu, of scalding their four-year old son Diego, with hot water.
Ndlovu argues that the boy suffered third degree burns, which eventually led to the amputation of his right foot.
Mahachi was suspended by SuperSport and the Pretoria-based side decided not to renew his contract because of the serious allegations.
The people in Bulawayo’s high-density suburb of Mzilikazi, where he grew up and was once loved, shunned him following the scandal.
His mother’s grave was desecrated owing to public condemnation.
When he sought a return to Chicken Inn, the club which catapulted him to stardom, the door was shut in his face.
“We are truly appreciative of the talents of Kuda (Mahachi) but we are a law-abiding club that does not condone any form of violence or abuse,” Nkululeko Nkana, the club’s spokesperson, told Soccer24 back in June.
“It’s a case in the courts and like every other Zimbabwean, we are in the terraces with regards to our former player. We can only wish his family finds healing and that his son recovers,” added Nkana.
For seven months, Mahachi lived a life of isolation and was in and out of the Bulawayo magistrates’ courts until he was finally acquitted last month.
In dismissing the case, the State cited contradictions and inconsistences in evidence presented by key witnesses.
Mahachi, in a statement, poured his heart out describing his nightmarish experience as he sought to find justice and clear his name.
“I was dismissed from my club with immediate effect with no income. I was vilified by a nation that I was once a football darling of and my fate was sealed on social media without a trial,” reads the statement.
“During these seven months, I lost everything I lived for. Seven months of being shunned by even those that I played alongside, 7 months of death threats, 7 months of depression.
“I lost everything that I worked for. All my savings have been depleted in my quest for justice. Yes, I have been exonerated but the nightmare I have gone through can never be erased.
“I can only pray that someone out there is willing to take chance on me, so that I go back to playing the sport that I love and finish my career without this torrid time being how I exit this beautiful game of football.”
While Mahachi has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the court of law, the Warriors star still feels incomplete because he is not playing the beautiful game.
Former Highlanders captain Gabriel Nyoni, with whom Mahachi played at Bosso before the latter moved to South Africa, believes all is not lost for the troubled star.
“We all know how talented Mahachi is, one of the best talents ever produced in Zimbabwe. He needs to be given a second chance. Everybody deserves one and if he does get it, I hope he has learnt quite a number of things from this situation,” Nyoni said.
Nyoni also insists those who judged Mahachi should at least be remorseful and allow the former Pirates star to heal and get back on his feet, adding that the clubs he once played for should open their doors for him.
“Since he has been acquitted, the ones who persecuted him should revisit their statements. This man lost everything in a space of a few months, this is the time we should see how supportive his former football clubs are,” reckons Nyoni.
“From Highlanders, Chicken Inn to the last club he played for SuperSport United; they need to support him and give him a job.
“For now, he should start knocking again of football clubs’ doors, definitely he will get a lifeline. Trust me, I wish him the best. I hope and wish soccer players could have the ability to associate and form cooperations that would assist in times like these,” added Nyoni.
Zimbabwe national teams general manager Wellington Mpandare, who has worked with Mahachi in an international career spanning eight years, believes the troubled footballer can still revive his career and flourish in the gold and green Warriors strip.
“Kuda (Mahachi) is still very young and for me, he can still play at the highest level and for the national team. The last time he played for the Warriors, against Guinea, he did very well and even scored,” said Mpandare.
“So with the way he was playing at SuperSport, where they would normally use him as a left back, he has improved so much in terms of his style of play. He can now mark as well as go forward at the same time because his biggest weakness was [not] marking,” added the former Gunners official.
Mpandare admits the child abuse scandal was detrimental for Mahachi’s career but the Zimbabwe international can still get back on track.
“It’s unfortunate whatever happened between him and the ex-wife. It had a very bad bearing on his career when SuperSport then ended up prematurely ending his contract, which in a way made other clubs not to sign him,” Mpandare said.
Despite the setbacks, there are clubs interested in Mahachi and the diminutive midfielder inking a deal with one of them is just a question of when.
“He has offers, fortunately, from different clubs. Unfortunately, I can’t mention them for fear of jeopardizing his chances of joining those clubs. But I’m well-informed that there are offers from different clubs and some of them even came through me,’ revealed the Warriors team manager.
“I told him (Mahachi), so I’m sure he is assessing the offers on the table,” added Mpandare.
Notwithstanding the prospect of revitalizing his career, Mpandare admits Mahachi is yet to recover from the child abuse scandal, emotionally.
“He (Mahachi) is down, the boy was affected,” confesses Mpandare.
“People were judgmental before he even went to court, saying he was guilty but I was constantly in touch with Kuda and he explained everything to me when he was still in South Africa before he came back to Zimbabwe.
Added Mpandare: “He sent me pictures and videos and I was so convinced he was telling the truth because I thought he loved that boy so much. Everyone who is close to Kuda knows how much he loved that boy.”
Mpandare suggests Mahachi needs some professional help before he can step on the field of play again.
“He still has a good chance of resuscitating his career but I think he needs some counselling because he was greatly affected,” said Mpandare.
Naturally, when a person is in such a mess, even those they regard as family distance themselves and Mahachi’s case was no exception.
“He feels no one stood by him. I remember when I went to Bulawayo for the Marvelous Nakamba U-17 Invitational tournament and after we were done, I told him I was around and he almost cried and asked me why I had not visited him, because everyone was avoiding him,” recalled Mpandare.
“He needs everyone’s love, even the friends should come through for him because he has been down and out and that alone can affect his performance even if he gets a contract.
In a flash, Mahachi went from a hero to villain but like a phoenix, he will rise again.