Dissent in the Ranks

The idea of professional football forged rifts among the Pirates players and, following the arrival of club patron David Motsomai, there were whirlwind changes to the way things had been done before.

"When a working committee was selected to handle the administration of Pirates, the team had initially welcomed the decision but 'in time the nature of the Pirates camp began to alter'. As new arrivals of players and supporters joined the club, the previous close-knit atmosphere was altered. Tensions arose amongst players and officials as 'the team's performances on the pitch failed to match previous highs'. 'These tensions,' Maguire writes, 'were to culminate in a split in June 1959 when disillusioned players walked out of the club, accusing certain officials of financial irregularity.' At the annual general meeting, the treasurer, Philemon Lempe, had failed to produce the required financial records. This culminated in a walkout of players. 'These included stalwarts such as Sobi and Sydney Mabuza who took their skills into the Orlando Amateur Football Association (OAFA), to which the new club had affiliated. Within a few years these players had returned to the fold and Mabuza maintains that he never considered the split permanent':When the money came ... all hell broke loose.

"'We were just showing our anger. Orlando Pirates was ours; we belonged to Orlando Pirates... but we did not change matters because then [when we returned to the club] professionalism came in... When the money came, then all hell broke loose.'

"According to Robert Archer and Antoine Bouillon [authors of The South African Game: Sport and Racism, Lawrence Hill and Co., Westport, 1983], South Africa's first professional football league was formed that year at the initiative of the South African soccer federation and whites followed suit almost immediately with the formation of the National Football League (NFL).

"Pirates didn't bother to attend any of the meetings called to plan the league, nor the trials to decide the league's composition, yet the league's organisers included them in the list published of those sides that had been accepted.

"The reasons behind Pirates' decision not to compete in the SASL's first season are not completely clear. Most of the players favoured the idea, but Mokgosinyana was not very enthusiastic.

"There was a new man who opposed the SASL but for totally different reasons. 'He favoured "professionalism" and was very much a man of the times. His name was David Motsomai.'

"Motsomai had appeared suddenly on the scene in the spring of 1960. He was a rich man who had made his money in Sophiatown. He owned shebeens, taxis and a shop, and according to the press, 'ran around in a big car'... Apparently Motsomai wanted to be the club's patron... According to Mabuza, Motsomai gave privileges to the first team, investing money in them. 'This he certainly did, buying the club four new sets of playing kit.'

"While Mokgosinyana's position as life president was never threatened, Motsomai was able to significantly erode his powers at the club. Court records and club minutes show some of the whirlwind changes to the way things had been done before, which followed Motsomai's arrival. They also reveal the president's bitterness. At one point Motsomai had the kit fetched from the president's house ostensibly because he had found a cheaper place to have it washed.

"There grew dissensions in the team later on when team members became opposed to Motsomai's plans of joining the team to SASL. Buthelezi opposes:

"'Why should we go to the SASL to make the Indians rich when there is a league for Africans?'

"Motsomai was forced out of Pirates as he had apparently negotiated the affiliation on his own. With him went Lempe... Black Pirates was born. The new side played in the kit Motsomai had bought Pirates... The split culminated in a drawn-out court case as Pirates tried to recover their kit and other material from their former patron.



Drum magazine, June 1980

The People's Club: A History of Orlando Pirates, by Richard Maguire (editor of Kick Off magazine), published by the University of the Witwatersrand Press, 1991


back to the Bethuel Mokgosinyana memorial page

"Without Bethuel Mokgosinyana, there would be no Buccaneers."
Bethuel Mokgosinyana
Pirates fans, 1970s
Bailey's History Archives


Tradition as historical source

In this lesson plan, learners are asked to think about how the oral traditions that people create around their favourite sports teams can be a historical source. We use Bethuel Mokgosinyana and the story of the origins of Orlando Pirates as our example.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
A selection of images of Orlando Pirates players and their huge fan base
Artwork Photo Gallery
See Sam Nhlengethwa’s memorial outside the Mokgosinyana family home in Orlando, Soweto.
Audio Documentary
The formation of Orlando Pirates in the late 1930s was the defining moment in the growth of mass support for soccer in SA. This documentary explains why.
Orlando Pirates and the Struggle
Donald Dliwayo, a former chairman of Orlando Pirates, reminisces about the team’s contribution to the liberation struggle.