Tebogo LebotseSebego (PCH) netball story epitomizes a race well run. She took over as the presidency of the Botswana Netball Association (BONA) in 2007, at a challenging time for Netball with the sport code considered to be the delinquent child of the then Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) now Commission.
LebotseSebego steps down ten years later, and almost every sport person looks at Netball with envy – administratively sound and there are results to that effect. In her own words, the now former President of BONA, LebotseSebego says, “Fast forward to 2017 and Netball is that model child who brought Botswana its very first world event. So definitely my time with Netball has been successful.” One could apply the analogy that when she ascended to BONA presidency, LebotseSebego applied the Harrison Hoist move – in netball it when a one defender lifts another to get more elevation during a jump. It was named after defender Anna Harrison who pulled off the move in Australia 2012.
A number of those who have worked with LebotseSebego point to her team effort approach, she motivated the help of those around her to elevate the Netball sport. They point out that as soon as netball found its footing, she held firm onto the holding position and directed the sport’s proceeding like a netball player will dictate the passing game from the centre court. LebotseSebego started playing netball in 1984 and her first call up for national team was for Under 21 in 1995. She only stopped playing the sport she loves in 2003 and became BONA President in 2007.
During her reign as President of BONA the sport has recorded key achievements including hosting of the Netball World Youth Championships in 2017 where team Botswana got position 9;
During the leadership of LebotseSebego BONA has managed seven players under Zebra Elite Scholarship; she masterminded the attainment of the SPAR partnership; Over 500 Technical Officials trained on international standards during her leadership; and 20 coaches and 10 umpires internationally graded.
According to the former BONA president, other codes can learn a lot from netball, “they can learn that it is important to retain and support leaders who is delivering beyond the 1st term of office to ensure successful execution of initiates started. From me personally they could learn to stay away from the sports politics, be firm, frank and fair.”
Speaking directly to her decision to step down, Madam President as she was affectionately known in some quarters points out that, “this was a decision made in 2013 when my 2nd term started. One of the things we did in 2009 was to revise the Constitution of BONA to have a defined term of office to 2 terms of 4 years. I believe that it was time for me to step forward and for someone with a different focus to come and take netball to the next level,” she said. Interestingly LebotseSebego’s time to step down coincided with the Botswana Olympic committee (BNOC) elections where she launched a serious campaign for Presidency. In the end she was not successful, but she says she is very glad that she put up her hand.
She had assembled an all-woman team for the BNOC elections, of which she says, “I am even more pleased that I went in with a women only team #BokgoniFela. We forced a conversation on the gender skewed leadership, not just in sport but in other spheres. Personally I learnt that sports leaders are NOT ready for female leaders who do not conform or sort of become “honorary men” or play “the game” to be elected into office. I am speaking of me personally and how I felt and this is not meant to imply that any of the women who raised their hands and were elected into office conformed. We managed to get into office 3 very capable women and I wish that we had managed to get at least one more into the more senior positions.”
Despite her unsuccessful bid at the BNOC, LebotseSebego says she is definitely not lost to sport. “Locally I will support as much as I can all codes in areas I am able to influence. I am still the President of Africa Netball and also a Board Director for the International Netball Federation.” The President of the Republic, Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama bestowed LebotseSebego with a Presidential Certificate of Honour (PCH). She is very proud of this recognition, a personal achievement she treasures: “Becoming Tebogo LebotseSebego PCH will remain something I will treasure forever. I am grateful to His Excellency for having bestowed that honor on me.”
With such an honour to her name, what if the Minister of Sport Youth and Culture could decide to appoint her the BNSC chairperson, “Perhaps I would be a bit uneasy if the Minister would hand pick me to lead sport after sports leaders did not vote me in for an important role in sports. However, I would accept the appointment, because sports is a public institution and it is for all people in Botswana and not just the privilege or right of sports leaders. So if the Minister considered me capable for a key role to lead sports, I would accept that role and give it my best.”
One of LebotseSebego’s concerns is that as a country Botswana still relies too much on volunteers to administer sports. “We need more people working full time for sports and for the sports leaders to bring in the strategic knowledge and expertise. With the way we are structured at present, I am of the opinion that we will be delayed to reach our full potential as a sporting nation.”
Madam President’s partying shot is straight to the point: “As is Government is the biggest contributor to sports. The private sector contribution is growing but we need to make it conducive for the private sector to increase its contribution. Also as sporting codes we need to profile and position such that the private sector sees value and want partnerships with sports.”
The government of Botswana has reportedly approved the dream of hosting African Cup of Nations in 2027 with Namibia as co-host, following a proposal to cabinet by Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.
WeekendSport learns that the organizing committee dreaming to host the tournament is preparing to hand their hefty book to Confederation of African Football (CAF) when bidding stage comes into open. Botswana Football Association (BFA) has, to this date, managed to win the confidence of the government, and all thoughts around the African football prestigious tournament are given serious attention with acceleration of construction of 10 mini stadia across the country, sources have said.
Furthermore, reports in Namibia state that the Botswana government has approached them with a proposal to co -host the 2027 edition of African tournament. “I can confirm that the minister of sport in Botswana has written to our minister but these are still early days and no decision has been made yet,” Audrin Mathe, an executive director in the Ministry of Sport was quoted by Namibia Sun this week. Meanwhile, Rakgare has said: “It is still an internal issues but yes, we are interested in hosting with Namibia.”
All the while, BFA president who also sits in CAF national executive committee is expected to embody a more emotive promise about the ability of African Cup in Botswana and how it can benefit the citizenry and by extension, the Southern region. With Zimbabwe having come out clean about their intentions to bid for 2034 World Cup, there has been a growing feeling that Botswana should try her luck, and therefore Botswana delegation will be hopeful to walk a fine line.
Although, the commercial potential of a Botswana AFCON Cup is a compelling factor in their favour, following the relative uncertainty of many African countries ( due to political instability, extent of corona virus ) and state of insecurity, BFA is minded not make that their thrust of the case. Hence the concentration on providing a home from home for all teams among Botswana’s diverse population and the opportunity to use the proceeds to advance legacy projects around Africa. The feeling on the ground is that the move might be bold, and some association influential players believe that it will be a matter of upgrading Maun stadium, Masunga and Serowe stadium.
An idea is also harbored that another stadium will be built in around Gaborone to boost the existing National Stadium with the Lobatse and Francistown stadia also expected to play pivotal role. All the while, a more than P20 million operational budget is said to be needed to travel the African countries in convincing them that Botswana is more suitable to host with its security and economy very much stable.
Botswana passes the mark when it comes to transportation, accommodation and hotel facilities. The fact that CAF normally want a country that has hosted youth tournaments before enables Botswana to score points in that it has hosted before. The only problem that might mark Botswana down is road infrastructure. BFA will consider roping in an experienced sport person and the high profile of former players like Diphetogo Selolwane is anticipated to appear for the thoughts building around the bid, and his name will be seen as watershed moment.
The southern region, however, might be dealt a devastating blow following the catastrophe that hit Angola when they hosted the 2010 edition. The Togo team was shot by rebels and panic erupted. However, the field is open and the ever shifting sands of CAF internal politics make the race hard to call and feed fears of horse trading and backroom deals.
A delegation from FIFA, the world football governing body, has left heads rolling after concluding what some call ‘early findings’ that Botswana Football Association (BFA) secretariat has not misused FIFA funds contrary to widespread reports and criticism. This comes to the fore against the much peddled P8.8 million which disappeared within the coffers of the association.
However, FIFA delegation led by David Fani, a former BFA boss himself, finds out that the funds have been used to projects they were not initially meant for. The delegation cited money for covid-19 which was meant to cushion clubs from distress due to lack of playing and was used to pay BFA employees. However, the findings by FIFA are said to have left the world of football divided on the way forward. They are those who are skeptical about the manner in which investigations were carried out but are afraid to voice out for fear of being victimized or being relieved of their duties.
While FIFA is adamant that the funds were misallocated, BFA finds itself at pains to answer a difficult question where some staff members at the finance department were sacked. More complicating the already strained situation is the decision to suspend the Chief Executive Officer, Goabaone Taylor and threatening to expel her while she had an over-riding duty to prioritize BFA funds when corona had ravaged the administration and operational wing of the association.
It might be that the National Executive Committee was building a case for her and would now want to look as if they were saving face when they sidelined her. “During the four day visit, the delegation carried out its assessment and interviewed BFA staff and former employees. At the end of the investigation, the delegation briefed the NEC on initial findings. The delegation informed the NEC that it found no evidence of misappropriation or embezzlement of funds,” reads part of BFA statement.
BFA has claimed that its brand has been “deeply tarnished” and that its “ability to use its resources for positive actions throughout the country, and to meet its mission of supporting and enhancing the game of football” has been “impaired” as a consequence of the actions of the football officials and some sports administrators under their watch. “We are not out of the woods yet, we had made good strides in earning FIFA’s trust; we will wait to see what the remedial action will be. However, we will be tightening our gabs and ensuring that we regain the financial confidence we worked so hard for,” BFA president Maclean Letshwiti said.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place owing to the ever burning issue of mischievous spending at operational level.
While the association coffers have suddenly dried up, with some staff members getting the boot, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has threatened to place the Maclean Letshwiti led association under strict funding for unspecified period of time.
WeekendSport learns that the sport ministry is not happy about the financial status of the association and will want to act before everything get messy.
At the close of last year, the Ministry had to intervene for the Women National Football Team to travel to Ethiopia as BFA had no penny to cover for the travelling costs.
As if that was not enough, the BFA December wages were covered from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) purse, an abnormality that BFA is at pains to explain.
All these incidents, however, coincide with a time when the Sport ministry is putting in place a new revised modeling for funding. The model requests national sports associations to explain in details the why they will need funding for their calendar of events.
Moreover, the Ministry is eager to prioritize funding basing on the performance of the sport code on a yearly basis.
“Things have changed, we are not going to splash money like we used to do, and we want a code to explain fully how they are going to spend the money,” a source shared.
Moreover, we will be funding looking at the overall performance of the code, we are not going to fund just because it is football and it is loved by many people.”
At worst, the ministry will want the association to account and should BFA fail to balance their books, the National Executive Committee(NEC) is likely to be dissolved by the ministry.
Sources further state that the Ministry’s patience has actually wilted away concerning codes that abuse funds. In the case of BFA, sources point out that they are likely to get half subvention until everything goes back to normalcy.
On a good year, BFA subvention reaches P 5.4million annually. Should the ministry persists, BFA will start operations of the year on a budget of about P 2.7 million. It will not be for the first time the association finds itself bearing the brunt.
Sometimes in 2018 when Tshekedi Khama was the Minister, the association’s subvention were cut down to pay an old standing debt that amounted to P3 million.
However, high ranking officials at the association believe funds can still be accounted for and refuses to accept that they have been reckless when it comes to spending. The official who does not want be named is of the view that the association had to halt FIFA projects and concentrate on incidental expenses brought by COVID -19.
According to BFA expenditure, the CEO gets the higher chunk and that’s where most of the money went. A national trip to South Africa by senior national team has also seen the association spending close to a million.
Moreover, the communication department of the association is bleeding more money after a certain PR agency was appointed nearly two years ago.