It has been more than six years since the last Bonite Volleyball Championship was held in Moshi, Tanzania. This tournament was sponsored by Bonite Bottlers Company (a beverages company for Coca Cola products and Kilimanjaro spring water). It involved many clubs from different parts of Tanzania, including those from Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi and put Tanzania on the map in terms of volleyball in the world. It was held annually for twelve years in Hindu Mandal ground in Moshi – an area easily accessed by neighbouring teams by road. The tournament helped the economy of Kilimanjaro from revenue generated from hotels and officials and players visiting.
The idea of this tournament came from the famous Radio Tanzania, Dar es Salaam (RTD), sports presenter, Salim Mbonde, with the IPP Chairman, Mr Reginald Mengi, and was welcomed by sports fans. Moshi residents warmly welcomed the idea as volleyball is the main sports in Kilimanjaro region due to the region’s terrain, which is more suited in terms of space to having volleyball courts in schools rather than football pitches.
The tournament was very important in the sports calendar and involved so many schools that Bonite introduced a mini-qualifying tournament to select the finalists for the main tournament. This was a very good boost for new players from around the country who had a chance to compete with players from neighbouring countries. It also gave Tanzania volleyball players an easy selection process for international tournaments like Zone 5 and the Olympics and All Africa Games
Also many clubs could not send teams overseas but because neighbouring teams could travel to Tanzania this gave them opportunities to compete and raise standards that they would not normally have had. The tournament attracted media attention not only from Tanzania but also East, Central and Southern Africa as it was the main open volleyball tournament in the region.
Bonite Bottlers Company, in collaboration with the Tanzania Volleyball Association (TAVA), worked hard to plan, organise and run this tournament and the relations were very positive leading to Bonite sponsoring TAVA itself for its activities including for training and support to volleyball coaches in schools especially from Kilimanjaro region. Through use of training clinics, Bonite supported coaches in terms of their travel costs and for use of facilities. This helped to raise generally the standard of volleyball in the country
This collaboration was built with the Managing Director of Bonite Bottlers Company, Mr Hasuji, and Gilbert Uisso, who coordinated the organisation of the tournament. Mr Patrick Sombe, who was President of TAVA, Mr Muharame Mchume, who was Secretary General of TAVA and the late Mr Severine Mrema, who was Assistant Secretary General of TAVA and myself who took over from Mr Mrema, and also Mr John Zambetakis, who coordinated the technical aspects of the tournament, and other people, were the team ensuring that the organisation and planning of the event went well with Bonite.
Among the teams who took part included General Motors and General Service Unit of Kenya, the Ngira Volleyball Club, Titiwi Block Stars, Lugulu Girls, Uroki Heroes, GSU, Indeni, KAVC of Uganda, Kampala Amateur Volleyball Club, Dodoma Girls (UMITASHUMTA), Mzizima and other local clubs including KKKT-Kanisa la Kinjilisti la Kilutheri Tanzania, Oroki Heroes, Ngira, Kili Combine, Dodoma Combined Shinyanga, Wero Weru and Metro of Dar-es-Salaam. The late Charles Bakker of Bokas FM Studios used to commentate entertaining the audience with music, jokes etc.
Volleyball is one of the top sports in Tanzania, played by all different types of teams from military institutions down to schools. The sport is one of the more exciting world games. Many people have talked about bringing this tournament back. Volleyball is a sport which has to fight for sponsorship, compared to football, and it is sad that such a successful tournament like the Bonite one is going to disappear. As a member of TAVA before, I understand that there were some problems between Bonite and the new leadership of TAVA but I believe those differences can be dealt with for the benefit of volleyball in Tanzania and the region.
We ask the Tanzania Government, in particular the Minister of Sports, Mr Seif Khatib, and the Deputy Minister of Sports, Mr Joel Bendera, to support the reintroduction of the tournament. Mr Bendera was very supportive of the tournament when it was running. Before he was Minister, he once visited the UMITASHUMTA team camp in Mlimwa Primary School in Dodoma to speak to the team before they went to the tournament to lend his support.
The problems in continuing with the tournament should be examined with the leadership of TAVA and the National Sports Council (NSC) and Bonite to find a constructive way forward and perhaps send a delegation to the Chairman of IPP, Mr Reginald Mengi, to discuss how to bring back the tournament.
Let us hope this important tournament can be brought back and that memories of togetherness, sports enjoyment and the views from Siesta Inn, Bufalo Hotel, Kindoroko, enjoyed by the officials and players during the tournament days in Kilimanjaro can be revived.
“Volleyball on the slopes of Kilimanjaro” – Lets bring it back.
Jamani Viongozi turudishieni mashindano haya ya Bonite!