Debswana First Division North committee hits back
The internal squabbles within the football governing body, Botswana Football Association (BFA) is far from over. The association is deeply divided by factional wars as some who are in positions of influence are aligned to the current president Macklin Letshwiti while others are aligned to the former leader, Tebogo Sebego.
Suspended Debswana First Division North Committee which is believed to be aligned to Sebego called a press conference on Wednesday in Francistown in an attempt to clear their names. The seven committee members were slapped with indefinite suspensions on allegations that they have embezzled P168 000 belonging to the association for their own personal benefit. The suspended Chairman, Mpezeni Sambandawe has vehemently denied the allegations levelled against them.
“The allegations that we misappropriated the association’s funds are unfounded, malicious and they are intended to tarnish our good names,” Sambandawe charged. He mentioned that they are deeply disturbed by reports circulating on the media and other social media platforms indicating that they have stolen money intended to run the league. The outspoken Sambandawe highlighted that the misinformation is orchestrated by people who are interested in peddling lies and are hell bent in discrediting the suspended committee members for political expediency.
According to Sambandawe, to the best of their knowledge the association wrote to them sometime in October seeking clarification on certain financial transactions in relation to the running of the league. “The committee responded swiftly and produced a report backed by statements and information from various key stakeholders to address some of the concerns raised by the association in relation to the aforementioned transactions. Surprisingly while the committee was still waiting for a response from the association some of its members were slapped with suspension letters that effected on November 1,” he explained.
Interestingly, Sambandawe said those who were roped in on interim basis lost elections during the elective annual general assembly in August and they enjoyed the support of some leaders within the association. He reiterated that the suspensions were done in bad faith or out of pure malice adding that they have now sort the services of a legal advisor to clear their names. He threatened that they might approach courts of law to seek redress.
“We failed to account for some of the funds disbursed to us because some regions such as Selebi Phikwe and Palapye among others failed to produce financial reports on how they used the money. We have learnt that they did so after they got instructions from someone holding a higher position at the BFA secretariat,” Sambandawe averred.
Suspended Secretary General, Rapula Gaothobogwe indicated that they had a P50 000 debt at the beginning of the 2016/17 season which they managed to clear. Gaothobogwe held that it is surprising that they are accused of stealing money whilst they managed to run the league smoothly and paying referees well on time. He maintained that their suspension is politically motivated as they are perceived to belong to a certain faction within BFA.
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AFRICA’S RECOVERY: Sports as game changer
The year 2022 witnessed unprecedented phenomena. Several Africans- Gotytom Gebreslase, Sharon Lokedi, Victor Kiplangat, Tamarit Tola and many others- swept the World’s marathons records.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting control measures implemented in several countries, led to many high-level sports competitions being cancelled or shelved, the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games was moved to 2026.
Founder and Executive Chairman, African Sports and Creative Institute, Will Mabiakop, says the inability to hold traditional and amateur sports events have had a serious effect on public health overall, including mental health, sparking a revolution whereby athletes began to talk more openly about stress, mental overload and performance anxiety.
“Africa is home to the fastest growing economies before the crisis, no longer on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 deepened interdependence between SDGs, making them harder to achieve, especially SDG 10 (reducing inequality) and SDG 5 (gender equality_ as the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on poorer countries, and heavier burdens (such as care work) fell to women.”
Mabiakop stresses that as policymakers contemplate actions to speed up recovery and build resilience, they must argue that sports and creative businesses should play a central feature in this effort.
“The sports economy worldwide is estimated at 5% of GDP, but only 0.5% in Africa. If exploited, Africa’s sports and creative industries can offer policymakers innovative solutions. Especially, as regards job creation, and providing employment to the 15 million people entering the job market annually.”
HOW CAN THE INDUSTRY DO THIS?
By leveraging the two-for-one concept: past studies shown that a 1% growth in the economy delivers a 2% job increment in this sector (these ratios are calculated using data from 48 African countries and adjusted to the reality of the sports economy in Africa by the authors). There are between 30 and 50 job types, in sports and creative industries, respectively. These jobs do not fade away with the first major shock.
Mabiakop indicated that policymakers can use these industries to tackle multiple crises- jobs, poverty, and climate risks. Sports diplomacy- defined as communication, representation and negotiation in or through the prism of sports- has proven effective in building inclusive and cohesive societies. Moreover, sports and the creative industry can support better mental health and well-being, both important for productivity.
“Policymakers can also be true to the game by leveraging culture and tradition to celebrate identity and reap commercial value in sports, textiles and jewelry. Creative sectors allow deeper connection with culture, are not easily copied and provide great economic potential.”
He said supporting grassroots sports has powerful distributional effects. “Fortunately, technology has made reaching wide audiences easier, generating higher rates of success when talent is discovered.”
However, Mabiakop held that potential pitfalls must be highlighted. “First avoid build it and they will come policies with infrastructures denuded from the rest of the ecosystem. Like the many sports stadiums left largely unused.”
“Policymakers must remain mindful of how these sectors move the needle in human capital development. Also, align the requisite public policies needed for progress from grassroots participation to professional sports, and even to international sporting events. They should also support investment instruments to render these sectors performant.”