Mulindwa can learn from TP Mazembe’s struggles

It is a public secret that Mulindwa's pursuit of excellence at Vipers has often led to interference. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

The master has never shied from exercising his ultimate powers. His zeal for success supersedes any other reasoning and needs no one’s advice to make decisions.

Vipers ticked one box in Lawrence Mulidwa’s never-ending quest to make the club a football giant on the continent when they became the second Ugandan club to reach the group stages of the 2023 CAF Champions League.

To reach there, Vipers had to undulate through the tough terrains of the Congo Basin to subdue Real de Bangui from Central African Republic and TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The matchup with TP Mazembe was iconic setting a date with destiny for their soccer-mad club owner. TP Mazembe is owned and bankrolled by businessman-cum-politician Moise Katumbi.

Mulindwa has never shied away from expressing his admiration for Congolese giant TP Mazembe. He has always stressed that he is using the five-time African champion as his yardstick in molding Vipers into a powerhouse in the continent.

His words are not just hot air, the trained statistician and teacher is literally copying whatever idea he can manage from the players, stadium design and spending to hiring and firing coaches.

Love for Mazembe

Vipers, then known as Bunamwaya, was promoted to the topflight in 2006 but struggled in the relegation battles in the first two years. Mulindwa then doubling as the Fufa President decided to inject money and boost the club. His passion and bottomless pocket brought the results as the club went on to win their maiden championship in 2010 under coach Edward Golola.

Mulindwa made another statement by going out of the country to acquire the services of Nigerian Ambrose Chukuma in 2012. He has brought in several foreign coaches since then as he blended with some local coaches in there, a move that has seen the club win four more titles and two Uganda Cups.

In 2018, the tough-speaking president opened up to journalists about his love for TP Mazembe and how he was molding Vipers into the same path Katumbi walked.

“I want Vipers to be like TP Mazembe because I admire the way TP Mazembe is managed. They have been African champions and played at the FIFA Club World Cup.

“They own their own stadium and sell players to European markets,” he said.

Vipers have sold several players to Europe with the biggest being Farouk Miya to Standard Liege for over sh1.3bn in 2016.

From building the stadium, big spending, selling players to the big markets to being the best in the country, Vipers has picked good lessons from Mazembe but must sieve the retrogressive ones.

Dream match

This reporter understands that Mulindwa personally invited Katumbi to attend the first leg of the second-round playoff between the Vipers and Mazembe clubs at the St. Marys’ Stadium in Kitende.

Mulindwa was seen affectionately ushering in the transport and mining magnate to his seat as the Fufa president Moses Magogo and his chief executive officer Edgar Watson watched on.

His team did not let him down on this special occasion as they matched the five-time champion in a goalless draw.

He travelled with the team for the second leg to Lubumbashi to witness the historic moment when a big part of his dream came alive as Vipers held their nerves to see off Mazembe 4-2 in penalties. Mulindwa, rightfully, felt that sense of arrival. And, where else other than against his role model?

The two met at crossroads where the Ugandan champions were ascending to their dreamland while the Congolese continued their downward spiral from champions in 2015 and winners of the Caf Confederations Cup in 2016 and 2017 to a group stage exit last season. There have been lessons for the Congolese to learn from the overly-dependence on Katumbi’s funding and leadership that led to some struggles during his time in exile.

The fixture also brought forward the striking similarities between the apprentice and his master.

Big man syndrome

The master has never shied from exercising his ultimate powers. His zeal for success supersedes any other reasoning and needs no one’s advice to make decisions.

Despite their success since 2009 when they ended over a four-decade drought at the continent under French coach Diego Garzitto. That success was not enough to keep Garzitto as he was sacked a few months later.

Senegalese Lamine N’Diaye, currently with Horoya, took over and partly fulfilled Katumbi’s dream to play at the finals of the Fifa Club World Cup in 2010. They lost the final to Inter Milan.

Since then, the club has won five continental titles but under eight coaches, seven in the last seven years. The denominator during that time has been their 2010 captain and current interim coach Mihayo Kazembe. The coach has been an assistant and caretaker coach throughout but like Edward Golola and Richard Wasswa, has never been empowered enough to take full charge.

Kazembe took over from Frank Dumas on October 15, last year just three hours after losing to Vipers. Coaches are not the only victims of Katumbi’s iron hand, on the same day, he fired the club’s board as well without discussion.

The club message stated that “This Saturday, October 15, 2022, Moise Katumbi and Franck Dumas separated amicably”!

It added: “The President Moise Katumbi took the decision to [also] suspend the Committee with immediate effect, with the exception of the team Secretary, Mr. Hilaire KABILA, who remains in office.”

In almost all their communication in appointing or sacking the coaches, the club has always mentioned their president in there.

The alpha and omega.

Leadership structure

Katumbi has often been praised for his work. At one time, he was touted to take over the Caf presidency however, the former governor of Katanga province had bigger ambitions – he wanted to lead DR Congo. His wealth, power and influence had grown in leaps and bounds.

That caused him trouble with the government of Joseph Kabila and forced to exile. He was slapped with charges of alleged property fraud and plotting a coup against the government and then sentenced to three years. The charges were later dropped before he returned to the country.

His absence caused a leadership vacuum and financial deficit in the club, a situation that led to the team’s deterioration.

“I think Moise Katumbi has, by and large, been a very good President for TP. Their revival, over the last two decades, getting to the final of the Fifa Club World Cup, would not have been possible without him,” veteran former BBC journalist Osasu Obayiuwana tells Score.

“That said,” he adds, “it is clear that his desire to become President of DR Congo has had an impact on the level of focus that he is currently giving the club.

"One wonders if he has put a succession plan in place so that a new, younger cadre of competent and knowledgeable administrators can keep TP at the top of African football.”


Like Mulindwa currently, Katumbi was not only obsessed with foreign but also players. The difference is that he spent his money on top African talent. Congolese-born African football analyst Christophe Bongo agrees with the aspect of diversity but tips Vipers with a piece of advice as he draws the line between Mazembe and Mamelodi Sundowns.

The latter is home to former Uganda Cranes skipper Denis Onyango and owned by South African businessman Patrice Motsepe, also the Caf president.

“TP Mazembe and Mamelodi Sundowns are both owned by rich guys but the latter is managed as a proper football club with the technical team calling the shots,” Bongo notes.

“At Mazembe, everything revolved around the owner. Who he likes. The owner ran the club like his house. That is a recipe for disaster,” he says.