Just like a blossoming flower under the right conditions, a lot was expected from the local netball fraternity, multitudes showed interest in the sport and both junior and senior national teams were doing well continentally. However, at a time when many now are expecting the flower to produce the desired fruits, the tree is wilting, leaving the optimistic sporting family a blurred picture about the future.
Under the leadership of one of the renowned female sports leaders, Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego, who was an envisaged messiah to transform the sport, the picture on the ground according to some netball lovers is not pleasing. Sources who have been boiling inside, this week shared with this newspaper how difficult life is at Botswana Netball Association (BONA).
They lament that the sport is on a sick bed and needs urgent attention.
“This is appalling, if things were done accordingly we would be far by now, but what is happening is just an indication that we are regressing and this is the responsibility for all of us as the netball family to sit down and make sure that the sport grows,” a source told Weekendsport.
Netball barely two years ago was a code that was envied by many and the expectations were that it will carry the pride of this country, by then the youthful team that participated in the 2014 Africa Youth games finished on position three while the senior team presence was also felt in Africa. The netball league was also active but it has since died with the teams now competing in the constituency tournaments.
“This is also a cause of concern, the constituency tournaments should feed the league not the other way round,” noted another source. This is vehemently said it shows how drastic the netball challenge is. “All the girls are in constituency, the thing is the league failure; it is costing us and the situation is so extreme because now the netball is on a downward spiral,” Miscellaneous coach Mercy Kololo said. The same situation prevails even in Francistown where one of the best netball teams Tasc it is also dead as the players are busy in the Presidential tournaments.
For her part the BONA President Lebotse Sebego admitted that they have lost a number of players but they have little to do because of the financial benefits at the league. “Yes we have a lost a significant number of players and officials to the constituency league, but there is very little we can do about this because the constituency league is much more attractive financially.” However she highlighted that they keep engaging with those players who present the highest potential as national athletes so they are not lost. As for the league the Lebotse-Sebego just like last year where BONA hosted a sponsor-less league “we will host the league again this year with or without a sponsor.”
Again the other factor that is being said to be having a hand in the sport “regression” is the next year’s Under 21 World Cup which according to the insiders has taken all energies. “If you look the 2017 is the only focus and the leaders seem to be forgetting about the local structures like league, you will agree that time and again the team that will be competing next year is taken to camps and tournaments that mostly address their needs, what are we saying to the other structures?” another source asked rhetorically.
However the President has justified their focus on the next year’s event saying “this is inevitable, we are preparing for the first world cup in Botswana and the first netball world event in Africa so the stakes are high.” It is said that despite hosting a milestone event next year, the sport think tanks should not forget about the local league because the expectation by the descending visitors will be to find a lively netball structures than the status quo.
The issue of the world cup it appears it has been ballooning inside many as they also contend that even the committee has sidelined other able bodied people who could have taken the job, the resignation of one of Sebego’s lieutenant Ntebogang Maplanka is reported to be another sign that indeed there not that glitters is gold. The President concluded by challenging “those who would claim that the BONA leadership is neglecting netball simply does not understand sport development as the world cup bid is specifically to fast track the sport development in Botswana.”
Amid the confusion surrounding the date of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elections, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, met with three presidential candidates on Thursday morning to discuss a plethora of problems bedevilling the domestic game.
The candidates are Maclean Letshwiti, the current President, Tebogo Sebego, the firm challenger of the BFA throne, together with Ookeditse Malesu who enters the race for the first time in his sporting career. There were other two unnamed officials who are said to be representatives from the sport ministry.
The Sport minister is said to have adopted a hard-nosed approach to register his disappointment and worry that the uncertainty of the upcoming elections have injured the administration of the local game.
Highly placed sources at the Sport ministry say that the minister’s ‘no gloves barred’ approach comes at the behest of the BFA’s constant negative headlines regarding their leadership style as of going into the elections.
It is said that Rakgare was also worried that the current administration is keeping the other two camps in the dark regarding the planning and processes bordering on election issues. This, he said has led to unnecessary speculations and back biting that is not needed to lift the game at a time when it is on its knees.
He was to rattle a few feathers at one incident when he called all the three leaders of the game to put their houses in order. As if that was not enough, the minister called on the three lobby groups to desist from serving personal interests but put focus on developing the game.
Interestingly, sources point out that the minister was livid but urged both Letshwiti and Sebego groups to refrain from tarnishing the good image of the ministry. This, he said in response to wide ranging allegations that he is taking sides as campaigns are ongoing.
The Sebego group accuses him of de campaigning Sebego and having a soft spot for Team Letshwiti while the same Letshwiti group is saying the same thing about the minister as having taking curious interest in Sebego camp.
The minister is alleged to have told the leaders that if they do not change their leadership style of protecting those looting public funds, his ministry would intervene even if it means attracting the wrath of FIFA, which is known for its notorious sanctions when countries do not toe the line. He urges BFA to be accountable at all the times they will cut the annual subventions that goes to them, sources claim.
This is not for the first time that the BFA was lectured on good governance. At one incident in 2015, former Minster of Sport Thapelo Olopeng dressed down the then Tebogo Sebego leadership regarding good governance.
BFA was at the time closely monitored by the ministry. Instead of the usual transactions that normally go through BFA, national team players received their allowances straight from government in the form of cheques. To demonstrate that government has taken a firm stand against BFA, players’ allowances were no longer routed through the association.
Nobody from the said meeting will address this publication enquiry all indicating that the consultation is never meant for public consumption.
If everything goes according to plan, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will hold its annual general assembly next month through a virtual conference.
There has been much uncertainty as to how and when the congress will be held seeing as how COVID-19 protocols remain stringent on gatherings.
Sources speaking with this publication say the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association has agreed to hold the congress within COVID-19 zones, consequently dispelling all the lingering doubts surrounding the life and soul of the assembly.
As it stands, there are nine COVID -19 zones in Botswana. The association is therefore contemplating to rely within four zones where live streaming will take centre stage for the first time in the history of BFA elections.
The congress was first billed for August 8th but was postponed to August 22nd. However, the second date could not see the light of the day as the country recorded a second rise of coronavirus cases that promptly led to greater Gaborone going into yet another lockdown.
The association has been procrastinating over the virtual congress idea with the election agenda remaining a sticky issue. Many advices came flooding that the association is free to make any decision about the congress but should be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the vote.
Sources indicate to this paper that the association is likely to rely on four COVID-19 zones, namely Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Palapye. The need to plant the meeting on virtual technologies hinges on the fact that the COVID -19 health protocols do not permit people to cross zones to hold meetings.
Information gleaned from various sources is that the association is looking to rely on four zones primarily because of the limited number of personnel under the electoral board. There are five members consisting of this committee and by the look of things; the association will not be allowed to outsource more election overseers at the eleventh hour. Sources argue that the whole cautious exercise is meant to avoid complaints that may arise after elections are held.
The virtual meeting comes after many failed attempts by the association to convince the Kereng Masupu led Task Force to give out a special dispensation. On many occasions, the Task Force refused to allow for the assembly to go on saying “football is not a priority.”
The assembly is expected to be held next month but the exact date still remains a subject of speculation. In the end, Tebogo Sebego will stand again for the second time to unseat Maclean Letshwiti while Ookeditse Malesu is standing for the first time to try and wrestle for BFA power.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.