HIGHLANDERS' sponsors NetOne are closely following events at the country's oldest club, which has been plunged into chaos over chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube's contract and suspension of vice-chairman Modern Ngwenya and secretary-general Israel Moyo.
Ngwenya and Moyo were suspended on Tuesday for allegedly defying advice from the club's human resources committee by voting against the extension of Dube's contract. Dube's two-year contract, which has since been extended to the end of 2019, had expired on April 30.
Two board members that sit in the human resources committee, a legal fundi and a human resources expert, reportedly pointed out to Moyo that the club risked a legal battle that it was likely to lose in the event that Dube's contract isn't renewed and recommended that the executive extends his stay up to the end of the year.
This was after the executive failed to notify Dube whether they needed his services or not two months before the end of his initial contract as stipulated in the agreement entered into in 2017.
The human resources expert also indicated that the executive erred by appraising Dube without a clear performance yardstick. Ngwenya and Moyo defiantly voted against Dube's continued stay resulting in their suspension.
A source said: "NetOne are closely monitoring developments at Highlanders and they don't want their brand associated with a partner where there appears to be confusion or disputes.
"Upholding utmost professionalism is what NetOne prides itself in and it is similar scuffles that led to NetOne deciding against signing with Dynamos because there were leadership wrangles."
The Highlanders' board has been in the firing line from some sections of the club's members, who accuse it of unconstitutionally suspending the pair, arguing that it had no power over them as elected members. However, Article 13 of the Highlanders' constitution states that board members comprise life members drawn from specialised skills and disciplines, and distinguished members of society who have rendered outstanding service to the club and are still desirous to assist and guide the club.
Article 13.4 of the constitution outlines responsibilities of the board of directors, which it states shall include, but not limited to: "13.4(i) Play a direction setting role for the club and to advise and oversee the executive committee on technical and specialised areas of concern to the smooth administration of the club.
"13.4(iii) serve as a disciplinary tribunal in matters involving the executive committee and to take whatever disciplinary action in deems fit, including suspending an executive committee member and in consultation with the board of trustees and executive committee, to co-opt an eligible member of the club to act in the position of the suspended member until the election of another member by the general meeting."
Signs of cracks within the Highlanders executive became visible after the vice-chairman and treasurer's elections at the beginning of the year, when some executive members accused Dube of capturing the club chairman Kenneth Mhlophe.
Mhlophe, who was said to be spending "too much time" with the CEO, was reported to the board for "unilaterally extending" Dube's contract, but it turned out to be false and the board instructed the executive to put its differences aside and work for the club.