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Who thinks they can Swim from New York to London?

Botswana-born Michael Ventre thinks he can! By day Michael, 38 is an IT engineer in London. However in his spare time he is in constant training for a colossal attempt to swim approximately 6,000 kilometers from New York to London!  In April 2017, he embarks on this phenomenal and world record feat that will take him between 5 – 8 months. At the same time, he needs your help to raise millions of Pula for charity.

Knowing Michael as I have, since Broadhurst Primary School, nothing he does amazes me anymore, except for this planned swim!  Even at Broadhurst he was picked out for greatness. No doubt he was by far the best swimmer in our age group among the so called ‘Big Three’ Gaborone-based primary schools of Broadhurst, Northside and Thornhill in the 1980s.  On the ‘Honours Roll,’ in Broadhurst, his name is inscribed as having earned the award for ‘Leadership.’

It was in this period at the age of ten, that Michael developed a strong passion for long-distance endurance swimming. He claims it began when he watched Thomas Gregory of England, becoming the youngest person to swim the English Channel (The body of water that separates England from France) on television. I have remained close friends with Michael since then and never doubted his burning desire to accomplish something fantastic within this sport.

So far his swimming resume goes like this: The English Channel (15 hours 18 minutes) and Molokai Channel (22 hours 30 minutes). You can see this swimmer has real endurance in his blood – he swam the Catalina channel in Los Angeles; Also Ice in his veins (He’s competed in the Winter Swimming World Championships in Latvia and Finland without a wetsuit). Added with courage to boot (Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 33 minutes) and most definitely inspired by a charitable spirit.

Staying on the topic of Charity; for ‘The New York to London Swim’, Michael is working with Oxfam, a large British charity and is attempting this swim in his efforts to raise £5m (about P75 million) for this charity in a bid to ‘End extreme poverty by 2030.’

After Broadhurst Michael subsequently went to High School and University in South Africa and has said, “Whilst growing up in Southern Africa it was impossible not to notice the vast contrasts in social inequality between different communities.

It's not acceptable that millions of people suffer severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter and education. This is an opportunity for me to take a stand and to assist in the alleviation of extreme poverty by the year 2030. Oxfam and I need your help as this is a colossal task but I believe that we can overcome any challenge if we come together and play our part.”

This huge world-record attempt of swimming the Atlantic Ocean will be a gruelling open water challenge testing both mind and body as Michael navigates sharks, killer whales, jellyfish, shipping debris and unpredictable weather conditions such as Atlantic hurricanes.

Michael will be accompanied at all times by two support boats with all necessary satellite communications, navigational and safety systems installed. Aboard those support boats will be health professionals, a sports psychologist and others as he will swim for six to eight hours every day, with breaks for lunch, dinner and rest.

When not swimming in the Gulf Stream (A powerful Atlantic Ocean current) he should cover between 22 and 28 kilometers a day, but the Gulf Stream could push that distance up from 32 to 64 kilometers a day. He will sleep on the support boat and a GPS reading will be taken each evening when he leaves the water so he can start from the same position the next morning.

Michael will be wearing regular swimming trunks, a swim cap and goggles as well as a wetsuit depending on environmental conditions. He may also wear an MP3 player and have radio communication with the crew whilst in the water. To reduce the effects of ‘Salt mouth’ Michael may use a snorkel, and in the event that the currents become too strong he may use fins for extra speed and propulsion.

The key thing is that the event will not happen unless Michael gets help from the public and corporate sponsors to get him to the start line.   Therefore in part, this article is also an Appeal to all readers to help him in this astonishing bid to raise funds for his journey as well as to help Oxfam in its aim to end extreme poverty. Right now he has Two separate campaigns: 1: To raise funds to get him to the start line. 2: To then raise funds for Oxfam once the event is confirmed.  Please go to his website at http://www.newyorktolondonswim.com/michael/ To donate and keep up to date with his progress.

In the words of one Director of Oxfam, “Like the swim, ending poverty may seem impossible, but we can end this injustice. By working together, we can create a fairer, safer world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. I hope you will join me in supporting Michael as he takes on this mammoth challenge for the 1.2 billion people currently living in extreme poverty.”

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Sport

Rakgare addresses BFA presidential candidates

21st September 2020
Minister Tumiso Rakgare

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.

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Sport

Virtual meet for BFA elections

21st September 2020
Malesu

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.
BFA President: Letshwiti
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.

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Sport

Talks to merge BNOC, BNSC resurface

14th September 2020
BNOC,BNSC merge

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.

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