This past Friday (yesterday) Batswana endorsed the new Government to lead the nation until 2019 when the next general election will be held. But for the past five years how has Botswana fared in terms of sport? Has the Government done enough to develop the sports industry? KETUMILE RAMATITI looks at how the Government dealt with some thorny issues in the field of sport and the way forward.
With the population of less than two million, Botswana is one of the least populated countries in Africa, which has performed fairly well in sport especially in international competitions where our athletes have been able to paint a good picture of this semi-arid country to the outside world. However, there have been shortcomings here and there as far as the Government is concerned in terms of its initiatives, which tend to backfire due to administration lapses.
DEVELOPMENT STRUCTURES From time immemorial one of the issues of concern to the sport industry locally has been development; both athlete-based and administrative but thus far it appears we are still using old-fashioned methods of doing things. All Government development initiatives have been brilliant ideas but execution has been a letdown to those noble initiatives.
The Reba Bona Ha programme, which is the oldest development programme, has failed to nurture the talent that it could, this is so because kids only get to train on weekends for about three hours but then do nothing midweek. To get the best out of this the Government could have made it in such a way that kids train daily so that they get to master what they practise and end up producing high breeds.
Another government idea that has backfired is the centres of sport excellence, which have also proven to be a liability. These centres have ordinary teachers acting as mentors, something which leads to the production of premature athletes because they are not moulded accordingly by ‘still-growing’ teacher-coaches.
Like they say, nothing comes cheap; the Government authorities should dig deeper into their pockets and give those teachers the necessary skills so that we produce mature well-rounded athletes who can represent this nation well on the global stage. All the centres of excellence have not been dominating in their respective codes, so the state has failed to come up with strategies to get the best out of this project.
If the leadership of this country could have provided necessary personnel and relevant structures be put in place then will see those centres produce the desired outcome. The controversial Constituency Tournaments, which nearly landed this country in hot soup with FIFA, cannot be glossed over. The tournaments don’t have age restrictions which means very old people play in the competitions.
This could have been better if the tournaments were designed to develop young ones who, as a nation, will reap something out of them in future like Segolame Boy rather than old and tired people being developed. How are they going to benefit the country?
The tournaments are also a hindrance to mainstream sport as athletes opt for them instead of professional leagues because of financial gain; so the government must take this as a lesson and try to harness resources to get the best out of these tournaments. The next Government that will be taking charge of this nation should also look at these loopholes and try to patch them up where necessary.
LEADERSHIP Another letdown for Botswana sport is administration deficiency from all levels even at the mother-body; Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC). The Government, which is the overseer and financier of the BNSC, should make sure that a sports body like BNSC is fully fledged. For a long time the CEOs have been coming and going at the BNSC, something which the Government could have rectified by getting down to the root cause of the exodus.
It is worrying that even now the sports council still has an acting CEO, yet an organisation like a sports council needs a permanent CEO. There have been allegations that the relations between BNSC and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) are frosty too. This has a lot of people calling for both organisations to merge as they normally ‘fight’ to take the shine from each other especially when it comes to international showpieces.
Some people have been going to the extent that various codes must take responsibility to elect the Chairperson of BNSC – rather than the Government appointing its preferred candidate – so they can caucus and present their ideal leader than a Minister who at times may be clueless about sports dynamics.
Lack of leadership has caused the country dearly as certain sport codes, including women’s football, and basketball league are played without sponsorship, which does not bode well for Botswana, when it comes to international competitions.
Recently we saw the national women’s team being thrashed by South Africa 10-0, confirming Honourable Shaw Kgathi’s words that ‘’we should never send ill-prepared teams to competitions”. However, during the reign of Kgathi as the minister of youth sport and culture, there were sports of pitso meetings where different stakeholders would share ideas on how to improve sport in the country, something which should continue for the next five years.
FACILITIES Another cause for concern to the sporting community is the availability of sports facilities. This came to the fore recently when we dreamt of bidding for 2017 AFCON as one of the pre-requisites was a 40 000 capacity stadium, which unfortunately Botswana does not have even though there were issues of consultation between BFA and BNSC.
Since the opening of the new Lobatse Stadium in 2009 nothing in terms of a new facility has been done. The Francistown Stadium is now a white elephant though millions of Pula were invested into its development.
As a developing country we should try by all means to have proper facilities, at least one international stadium like what Zambia did by constructing the Levy Mwanawasa stadium because our National Stadium is no longer ideal as it has been overtaken by events.
Athletics, which has been putting this country on a world map, is yet to have any facility that will complement the athletes’ hard work. In this era where the likes of Amantle Montsho are hanging up their running spikes, we should have a palace where enterprising athletes will nurture their talent rather than sending athletes abroad to facilities where they can train well.
Recently, the Botswana Amateur Athletics Association (BAA) announced that it was planning to erect a high performance centre, which needs around P400 million but sadly the BNSC says it cannot afford.
Again it means the dream of having those facilities is still far-fetched this has left the BAA top brass keeping their finger crossed that the next Government will listen to their pleas. However, we have seen attempts by Government to provide sports facilities, which have benefited codes like volleyball as they now play their games indoors via availability of IHS facilities.
This has been a welcome development. The impending opening of the sports centre at the University of Botswana (UB) is also expected to reduce congestion at the few available ones. The state of the art facility will cater for various indoor codes including boxing and table tennis, among others. In terms of facilities, the Government cannot be commended because it could have done better.
HOSTING EVENTS Late in their term the Government helped in hosting a number of events with the latest being the legendary Africa Youth Games (AYG). Botswana hosted the COSAFA Under-20 competitions in 2010 and 2011, which has been a good development from the government side. A variety of sports codes have also joined the bandwagon; rugby hosted the World Cup qualifiers and netball followed in their footsteps.
It demonstrated what this nation can do by hosting successful games despite the short notice. This past government can be given pat on back too for taking sport seriously, especially in terms of hosting huge continental and global and events.
It is through this regime that Botswana saw our representative teams doing well in international event. Montsho in 2010 made history as she got a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2011 the senior national football team, the Zebras qualified for the first time to AFCON finals. In the year 2012 Botswana also notched the first Olympic medal courtesy of Nigel Amos who is now going up the success ladder.
Players are also being exported to professional leagues; volleyball has Tracy Chaba who plied her trade in Algeria before coming back home and basketball is also on the verge of sending their star, Baros Churchill, to Angola where the sport is played on a professional basis while netball has also sent Hildah Binang to Singapore for a season. But the success of these players can be attributed to their own brilliance.
This past Government has played its part and the next Government should improve upon what is already there so that at the end of the day Botswana sport is the winner.
The case involving the improper registration of Township Rollers left back, Onkarabile Ratanang which has been dragging for a long time since the beginning of this year was finally put to bed this week after Botswana Football League (BFL) Disciplinary Committee (DC) found Mapalastina guilty.
In what shocked many football fanatics this week, Popa Popa as they are affectionately known by their legion of fans were fined P15 000 for using a defaulter in some of their league matches. It must be noted that no team officially filed a formal protest against Rollers. In April this year, Botswana Football Association (BFA) Secretariat conducted investigations into registration of Ratanang and discovered that the player was registered outside the transfer registration period.
According to a statement from secretariat, it revealed that BFA registration period was from 13th July 2021 to the 30th September 2021 but Ratanang was registered on the 28th of October 2021 and this was done contrary to the rules and statutes of the BFA. After the investigations were conducted, two officials from Rollers and a former BFA employee Setete Phuthego who are alleged to have been implicated in the registration of Ratanang were suspended from all footballing activities.
The two Rollers officials were, General Manager Sydney Magagane and Team Manager Motshegetsi Mafa. However Mafa’s suspension was withdrawn on June 27 though there was no disciplinary hearing conducted. Rollers was represented by Bennett Mamelodi who is the CEO of the club together with Kgosietsile Ngaakagae and Martin Dingake in the Ratanang case. The Botswana Premier League (BFL) Prosecution team was led by Chalengwa Manyepedza, Bojosi and three other members.
When delivering the long awaited judgement on Thursday, Manyepedza who is the chairman of BFL Prosecution team said there were two mitigating factors in favour of Rollers with the most important aggravating factor being the seriousness of the offence. “To their benefit and it has not been violently contested to suggest otherwise, Rollers approached the BFA office for help (in their words) and curiously the BFA office that ought to be custodians of the system allowed the request and thereafter kept quiet about the matter,” reads part of the judgement.
“It is a matter of record that Township Rollers have maintained that the situation central to the case was facilitated and somewhat sanctioned by the named BFA officer who received the application albeit out of time as it has been established but still proceeded to procure the registration and clearance of the player and thereafter kept quiet about the matter.”
Furthermore Manyepedza indicated that there is a problem in the BFA office in terms of governance and adherence to controls judging from what allegedly happened. He further said whilst the BFA junior officer claimed that they were directed by a superior officer to assist the accused, “there has been nothing more placed before us to support the argument that Rollers were the only party with dirt on their hands in his case.”
He went on to emphasize that the committee finds that the appropriate sanction should also pronounce that the respective office of the BFA that facilitated the transgression was also remiss and complicit in their discharge of their functions. “As stated in the main judgement the player was a defaulter and the issue of his status did not arise from the protest or complaint or in any way as contemplated in the BFL Disciplinary code. It must be emphasized that the case would been different if all the issues had an aggrieved party or if any would have followed the set procedure in the BFL code,” he said.
Manyepedza said after taking all relevant factors into account including the demands of justice, the committee finds it fitting that the possible punishment in the matter to be prescribed above at clause 6.3 to be a fine of P15 000 and that the fine should be paid within 3 days of the judgement. In conclusion, he cautioned Rollers to refrain from any further acts of being negligent or clumsy in discharging their office functions to end up seeking favours from officials. Manyepedza also advised Rollers that they have 10 days to appeal the judgement.
Youthful coach Wame Mokoke has come out with guns blazing to the Extension Gunners official who he said recruited him back to the club after he dumped them for greener pastures at Jwaneng Galaxy but failed to deliver on their promises.
Pepe Zino, as he is otherwise known, then joined Galaxy on a 2 year deal to deputise head coach Morena Ramorebodi but 2 weeks later retraced his steps back to Mapantsula, a move he highly regrets. “That guy (name withheld as the issue is now before the courts of law) counteroffered what Galaxy had offered, promised to timely pay my salary from his company on behalf of Gunners and also promised me a 4 hectare piece of land at Dikgonnye, that is what really lured me back but he failed to deliver, ” Mokoke said in an interview with this publication.
After rejoining Gunners much to the allured charm that was dangled in front of him, Mokoke timely received his first month salary back in January but nothing thereafter as the unending stories began. “I could be far by now as Galaxy offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. They even promised to further my coaching badges but look at where I am now, “Mokoke disappointedly explained.
However, Mokoke said he has approached the labour courts for his defaulted payments and as for the piece of land, he registered the case with the High Court of Botswana and they are set to appear for a hearing on the 6th of August. He further added that he has proof of all the documents the official allegedly signed before his own laywers to authorise the land giveaway and the promise of monthly salary payments and furnished the judges with them.
A week ago Mokoke went back home as he was unveiled as the new First Division side Mahalapye Highlanders head coach on a 2 year deal and said he is excited about the new challenge that lies ahead of him as the management gave him attainable goals. “They simply asked me come and help them get promoted back to the premier league by building my own team and promised to avail the resources. I have also been given the authority over the establishment of our junior teams.
To try and achieve all these in a space of 2 years is a fair requirement,” he added. One of the projects Mokoke envisions is to try and unite the people of Mahalapye in terms of trying to get fully behind Highlanders including the supporters and the players in and around the Mahalapye area.
For starters, Mokoke said he wants to alter the tradition that has ingrained at Highlanders as majority of the players there were not from the team’s area of abode and he wants to give Mahalapye players a chance in order for them to don the blue and white of Highlanders with pride and sense of belonging and to steer the ship.
Furthermore, Mokoke is equally peturbed by the trend among the football fraternity of local coaches being undermined while their foreign counterparts enjoy prestigious welfare albeit being equally qualified as them. “Let us change the welfare of our local coaches who have oftentimes showed that they are equally qualified and capable like foreign coaches. Let us invest in our own and also empower them,” said Mokoke in a parting shot.
Botswana shall be sending a team of 34 athletes to represent the country at the biggest games of the 2022 calendar year, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XXII Commonwealth Games.
The Games are slated to take place between the 28th July and 8th August 2022 in Birmingham, England. According to BNSOC, Botswana has been accorded thirty-five (35) slots at the upcoming games and has been able to qualify outright one athlete from the Botswana Weightlifting Federation making the total team size thirty-six (34), the largest team to be fielded by less population country thus far.
In celebrating and lauding this feat by team Botswana, , the British High Commissioner to Botswana, Her Excellency Sian Price recently hosted an intimate reception for the team, at her residence. “Consider this little bit of the UK in Botswana the first stage on your journey to Birmingham. It’s not just me that is excited to have you here, the city of Birmingham is very excited to welcome you, and they are welcoming you and all other family members from across the commonwealth because we are a family of nations, and we enjoy these celebrations that introduce the coming together of family to play together, to celebrate together and to strive together for excellence,” said Price.
Price said this will be the most inclusive Commonwealth Games ever, with more para sports than ever before and for the first time in history this makes me excited; there will be more medal events for women than for men. When addressing the athletes, BNOC CEO Botho Bayendi reveals to ‘unveil’ the concept that is believed to be mastered seed that will grow and bear fruit as they go to Birmingham from today up to the day of departure in 2024.
“As BNOC we have partnered with BITC, and BNSC to conceive a concept called the first, the best and the number one. In this concept, we are trying to persuade the mindset of the people to say that sports is for sports for live, sports generate joy to us all and sports unite,” she said. Bayendi further explained that this is a concept where they will be approaching individuals and companies who in their line of business have been classified as the best of the best or the number one.
“We intend to leverage the national unity behind sports in relation to the ultimate sports excellence. We are saying that we want to create an atmosphere where everybody, every national of Botswana will relate positively with the sports excellence and will be contributing that excellence,” she said. “The Olympic Games are guided by the values of excellence, friendship, and respect. Therefore, we want to be selling these values and allowing everybody, the company, individual to relate with these values.”
For his part chairman of Botswana Olympic Association France Mabiletsa, a former Olympian, said athletes should dream big so that those who come after them will enjoy and benefit from their dreams. He advised them to just enjoy their sport. “Don’t take drugs, don’t dodge from the camps because the moment you start dodging, or you don’t come back you will be punished severely,” he said. Standard charted bank CEO Mpho Masupe said it is important that as athletes they look in the long term and see where they can excel so that they know whether they could make a good coach, teacher, or instructor, saying they should not limit themselves.