Meet Zim volleyball's Iron Lady

HARARE - Growing up, Nothando Magwaza was a passionate volleyball player but an arm injury relegated her to a supporter in her early years in sport.

She is, however, now enjoying a new lease of life in the same sport as a seasoned administrator in the Zimbabwe Volleyball Association (ZVA).

The 32-year-old former St David’s Bonda and Roosevelt Girls High School student is the head of corporate affairs, a position she has held since May 2018.

“I started playing volleyball at the age of 13 (form 1) in secondary school in 2000 at Bonda. I was forced to quit playing by my mother when I injured my hand in Form Three, which was a bitter pill to swallow because volleyball was my first love,” Magwaza told the ‘Daily News on Sunday’, adding:

“It was a minor injury but you know how mothers are, so caring, she did it innocently trying to protect me but it affected me a lot as I could have gone far with the sport.

“Other ladies I played with at the time grew in sport and reached high levels — the likes of Portia Chiwetu, Kudzai Chareka. Kudzai played for the national team. 

“She went to the University of Western Cape playing volleyball there and now she is based in Namibia and still going strong in the sport while Portia played club volleyball reaching the Zone 6 club championships.”

Her never-say-die attitude, albeit in defiance to her mother’s advice, saw her returning back to the courts 15 years later playing for Police General Headquarters (PG HQ) upon joining the police force where she is employed in the ZRP Clothing Factory.

“I returned to the courts in 2015 joining the PG HQ womens team. I played for the team for three years between 2015 and 2017, competing in the commissioner general of police's Sports Gala. I was encouraged to join the professional league by friends. In 2017, l joined Stars Volleyball Club and played the first round of the Harare Volleyball League as a middle blocker before I was forced to quit playing due to a knee injury; I tore my left knee ligament and had to undergo ligament repair surgery,” she added.

During her short stint as player, she managed to collect several team awards including a gold medal in 2015 and a double bronze in different competitions with the PG HQ women’s volleyball team.

The mother of all appointments for Magwaza arrived unexpectedly in May last year when she was incorporated in the national volleyball association structures to help with brand visibility.

“It was a great honour. I never saw this coming but some people out there were seeing the gift and potential in me.

“I jumped on it as it came at a time where I was itching to put what I had learnt at school into practice. The appointment was never something I dreamt of,” she said 
of her ZVA appointment.

In her first season with the national association, six local teams, including four clubs, raised the country’s flag at the Confederation of African Volleyball Zone VI Senior Club Championships at the University of Kwazulu Natal’s Westiville Campus in Durban last December.

UZ Wolves men’s team retained their silver medal while ex- women defending champions Harare City ladies and SheWolves women’s team crashed out at the quarter final stage together with the Citizens’ men.

Though Men’s 2017 champions Support Unit and Naba did not make it past the first round, all teams’ performances were quite commendable away from home and on alien indoor courts.

It’s one of ZVA’s success stories. The Zimbabwe National Volleyball League has produced very strong teams that are making a mark in the region. We had the highest number of teams at the tournament. We are very proud of how well our teams and us as an association are being recognised in the region as well.

“I have been impressed by the level of competition in the League (domestic). There's no team you can write off as an underdog. Teams that have just joined league are giving the big teams a run for their money. They are leaving a mark in the league. The games are well organised and managed.”

Playing and managing a sport are never the same as Magwaza has found out. She believes the latter is a bit stressful.

“With both there are goals to be achieved. As a player you will be aiming to win the game, as a manager you aim to promote the sport and see it grow. Managing volleyball is more stressful as it comes with more responsibility. The work is very demanding and you find yourself working around the clock,” she said.

The former Stars Volleyball Club middle blocker is happy with the way she is fulfilling her role as the corporate affairs head of ZVA.

“The different dimension l have brought on board is visibility of the sport in the media. In order to attract the corporate world and the general public the sport needs to be visible. 

“I wish to secure sponsorship for the association as this will go a long well in helping the sport grow. It will also assist our national teams to compete in regional, continental and, who knows, world tournaments,” she said. 

“I have a great working relationship with my leadership led by our president Ringisai Mapondera, first vice president Brian Manuel, Enias Kondo (second vice president), treasurer Mxolisi Ndlovu and secretary-general Tawanda Sithole. They are supportive and are open to new ideas. They treat me with respect.”

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