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BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE
The Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) has been accused of withholding scholarships awarded to two of its deserving karatekas.
Earlier in March, the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) wrote a letter to BOKA informing it that it had awarded Olympic Solidarity (OS) continental scholarships to Ofentse Bakwadi and Entle Maungwa.
In the letter, dated 25th March and signed by BNOC Programmes Manager Wedu Motswetla, BOKA is informed that the OS continental grant is ‘for the period of January – December 2019.’
“The recipients will be accorded an amount of P2 500 monthly to assist them towards qualification and preparation of upcoming games,” reads an excerpt from the letter.
However, three months since BOKA received the letter, it has emerged that the concerned athletes are yet to gain access to the monies as the karate body is yet to respond to the BNOC to activate the funds.
Speaking in an interview, one of the scholarship recipients Ofentse Bakwadi said he was not aware he had been awarded any scholarship by the BNOC towards preparation for his upcoming games.
Bakwadi, who was late last year, stopped by the BNOC from raising his own funds towards his preparation to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, said he is struggling in his preparations as he does not have enough funds.
“I do not know of any scholarship I have received from BNOC. I have never received any letter or correspondence from either BNOC or BOKA about the said scholarship,” Bakwadi said.
“For now, I am still struggling to attend training camps and tournaments outside the country as I am still financing myself to undertake such if I am to realise my Olympic dream,” he continued.
According to Bakwadi, for him to qualify for the Olympics, he has to attain a certain ranking, which he can only achieve if he attends as many rated tournaments as he can to gain points.
The athlete went on to allege that given his financial situation, he had even written to BOKA requesting financial assistance but he has never been helped.
When the BNOC was reached to clarify the matter on the OS scholarships, Motswetla, who is the BNOC Programmes Manager, confirmed the BNOC had indeed sourced scholarships for the two Karatekas ‘to assist them in preparations.’
She went on to explain that the scholarships date back to January this year but said the athletes can only be access them with the consent of their National Federation.
“We have written to BOKA informing them of the matter but they are yet to write back to us. The said scholarships are still in motion and if and when the national federation consents to the release and do what is needed, the monies can be released to the athletes,” she explained.
The BNOC programmes manager went on to add that as the BNOC, they cannot communicate directly with the athletes except in cases where athletes had approached them.
“We communicate with the federation and it is then the duty of the federation to speak to its athletes. The federation and the athletes then decide how the monies will be used.”
On whether they had made follow-ups on why BOKA had not yet written to the BNOC to ensure the athletes receive their monthly grants, Motswetla said they had engaged.
“When we enquired, BOKA informed us the athletes were not struggling as they already had accommodation in Gaborone. They informed us that they have made a plan on how the athletes will utilise their grants,” she said.
Motswetla however said she did not know whether BOKA and the athletes had agreed on the alleged plan of how athletes will utilise their grants.
“The federation alone cannot decide or plan how the athletes will use their grants without consulting them first. There has to be an agreement between the two,” she said.
However, when asked whether BOKA had consulted with them, Bakwadi said none such had happened, adding it will not be right if the association had made plans for their grants without consultations.
“How would BOKA make plans for us without consulting? Aside from accommodation, we have daily needs like transport, training gear and others that we need to prepare well. They cannot and should not plan for me without consulting,” he lamented.
Attempts to get comments from BOKA proved futile as the association’s public relations officer (PRO’s phone number rang unanswered.
Meanwhile, the BNOC programmes manager has acknowledged the grants monies offered to the athletes are not adequate.
“The monies offered are not enough to take an athlete to Tokyo but it can help them meet certain needs to facilitate their qualification,” Motswetla.