ONCE a vibrant weekend hangout joint that attracted the who is who of Bulawayo’s social life and contributed to the club’s coffers through rentals, one of Highlanders’ properties has been turned into a ‘squatter camp’.
Not so long ago, Hlabangana Lounge, run by Bulawayo socialite Babongile Skhonjwa, was the place to be for social events, weekend hangouts and even attracted out of town party lovers.
Skhonjwa paid rent to Highlanders as the owners of the property.
The deal went south in October 2019, when the popular outdoor joint was shut down by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC), allegedly due to licensing issues.
The property had been vacant until recently when about three families moved in.
B-Metro Sport visited the property and observed children running around the place, with an open fire, presumably used for cooking, burning on a corner outside the building.
One lady we spoke to said she is the wife of one of the groundsmen that are working to restore training grounds.
“My husband works here and is employed to fix the grounds.
We moved here because we didn’t have a place to stay and this building was empty at the time,” she said.
True to her word, on the periphery of the land that Hlabangana Lounge sits on, three men were hard at work on a football pitch that used to host social soccer games.
Asked if they pay rent, she professed ignorance and said only her husband could answer that question.
The three gentlemen refused to talk to this publication.
Before the country was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, the club had embarked on an ambitious project for the restoration of the clubhouse training grounds.
The idea was to save money by staging lower league games at the venue instead of hiring Luveve or White City stadiums for Bosso90, the Royals – the Highlanders Ladies team – and other junior sides.
Highlanders marketing and media officer Nozibelo Maphosa asked B-Metro Sport to send questions on social media platform WhatsApp and had not replied by Thursday afternoon.