Pamba leaves big gap
ANELE Pamba is a self-made man. Pamba, who comes from Zwide township, Port Elizabeth, started out as a taxi driver and then became a clerk in the traffic department serving summonses. Today he is a respected businessman in the Eastern Cape.
Until this week, he was also one of the country's leading black rugby administrators, as chief executive of the Southern Kings.
But now he has quit rugby, leaving a big gap at the Southern Kings, who are just two months away from their Super 15 debut.
As CEO of the Kings, Pamba worked closely with the president of Eastern Province Rugby Union, Cheeky Watson.
"I feel like I have lost a brother," said Watson after hearing about Pamba's sudden and unexpected resignation.
For the past four years, Pamba and Watson have fought the battle for Eastern Province rugby. This year they achieved what many had thought impossible - rising from the backwaters of Currie Cup rugby and supplanting the Lions of Ellis Park in the Super 15.
The 49-year-old Pamba was born on a dairy farm in Greenbushes just outside Port Elizabeth. His love for rugby was first stirred when his family moved to Zwide where he attended Itembelihle High School.
But the job's demands, have been too much for Pamba.
"The job has taken a heavy toll on my life and health," he said.
One of the many demands was the negotiations with new players for the Southern Kings. These would often last long into the night.
As the chief executive, Pamba was hands on. Often he was down at the players' tunnel or on the touchline. He was seldom in the president's box.
"As chief executive I guess I was supposed to be in the president's suite entertaining people. But I told Watson that if I sit in the president's box I won't be part of the battle," he said.
A former prop forward, he was easy to pick out because he would be the most animated of the support staff on the touchline, wearing his red-and-black Kings jersey with his name emblazoned at the back.
"My preference is to be part of the fight and be close to the players and the support staff," said Pamba, who turned out for African Bombers in his playing days.
Watson dismissed suggestions that there was anything sinister about the sudden resignation.
"It has been coming for some time," he said. "Four years ago when there was a vacuum for a chief executive in EP Rugby, Pamba took on the job on condition that it was a temporary.
"For the past year Pamba has been wanting to return to the business world and I have always stopped that. So this is not a sudden thing or a surprise."