Blind sportscaster Obert Sithole conquers the impossible … Zimbabwe’s General Van Click
Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
There are few people in this world who truly embody the term “inspirational,” but Zvishavane-based Obert Sithole, also known as “General Van Click,” is certainly one of them. Despite losing his sight in a mine blast accident in 1992, Sithole has become one of the most knowledgeable and respected sportscasters in Zimbabwe.
Sportscasting is a difficult job, requiring the ability to report on fast-paced events in real time. But for Sithole, who cannot see the action unfolding before him, it is an even greater challenge. Nevertheless, he rises to that challenge with skill and finesse which has earned him the nickname “General Obiza” among his colleagues.
Sithole’s journey to sportscasting began after his accident, which left him without the ability to pursue his chosen profession as an electrician. Instead, he turned his focus to football, a sport he had played himself as a midfielder for Shabanie Mine FC. Through his love of the game and his deep knowledge of its workings, he found a new calling as a correspondent for local radio stations.
“I was an artisan at SMM and happened to be on duty underground when there was an accident in 1992. My eyes were affected by the blast and I lost my eyesight,” he said.
Despite his blindness, Sithole is able to accurately report on football matches with the help of an aide who identifies players and notes important events. But it is Sithole himself who brings the matches to life, with his eloquent and insightful analysis of the game. He can recall events from 20-25 years ago and is a living encyclopedia of football statistics.
“My aide gets us the team sheets and all that but I do most of the work because I can feel the atmosphere in the stadium as soon as I step in,” he said.
Sithole’s talent and dedication have not gone unnoticed. Sportscaster Simba Chiminya recognised his potential early on and convinced him to become an analyst, guiding him through the process step by step. Since then, Sithole has become a correspondent for stations such as Star FM, covering Premier Soccer League matches and other sporting events in Zvishavane.
“When it came to information regarding what was happening at FC Platinum and Shabani Mine FC, I was the person who had the information. There are two commentators Simba Chiminya and Collen Nikisi who noted talent through our interactions every time that they came to Zvishavane,” he said.
Star FM Sportscaster Chiminya said he first saw Sithole way back in 2011.
“I had gone to do a story about the rivalry between Shabanie Mine and FC Platinum so a former workmate at ZBC Azaria Banda said there is a guy who is very knowledgeable about football in the mining town and he is usually stationed at ‘Geneva’ in Maglas,” he said.
Chiminya said from their first encounter, he was able to tell that Sithole was very eloquent and knowledgeable in football.
“I then convinced General Van Click as we call him to be an analyst and at first he was jittery but I assured him that we would go step by step. So I would call him and go through the tutorials of being a reporter over the phone. Him being a sharp and intelligent person he quickly mastered how to do it. I was corresponding for Star FM Sports giving them stories from the Midlands province and then I went to the head of sports Steve Vickers and said I have found a gem in Zvishavane and he said send me a demo. He was impressed and that’s how Obert started corresponding for Star FM. We also became close because of our Moyo totem and since 2011 he has been my elder brother,” said Chiminya.
YA FM station manager Nikisi said Sithole is intelligent, adding that his knowledge of the game is out of this world.
“When it comes to statistics he is a living encyclopedia as he can recall events from 20-25 years ago. A lot of us reporters are amazed by the rare special skill he has and most people doubt if he is blind or is faking it.
“What I have come to respect about General is the fact that he was a midfield genius before tragedy struck playing alongside the likes of Luke Masomere and John Phiri. He has translated that genius to the microphone and pen. He is an inspiration to many and has debunked the disability factor,” he said.
Sithole’s story is a testament to the human spirit and its ability to overcome even the most difficult of challenges. Despite losing his sight and his chosen profession, he has found a new way to contribute to society and pursue his passion for football. And in doing so, he has become an inspiration to others, proving that disability does not have to be a barrier to success.
In the words of Nikisi, “He is an inspiration to many and has debunked the disability factor.” General Obiza may have lost his sight, but he has gained something far more valuable: the admiration and respect of all who know him.