Despite success on the fields of play, the Botswana Games are now coming under microscopic scrutiny off the playgrounds. The games, which are seen as a breeding ground for Botswana’s future sporting stars, are mired in controversy following allegations of sexual harassment of athletes during their past event.
It is alleged that some female junior athletes from the Gaborone team are pointing an accusing finger at one of the coaches for ‘sexually harassing them.’
The allegations are said to have been taken before the Police by the Gaborone team leaders after consultation with both the alleged victims and their parents.
According to Gaborone team’s Head of Delegation, Oaitse Mbaiwa, the allegations surfaced some time during the games when one of the minor female athletes reported to the Gaborone Team leaders that she had been improperly handled by her coach.
“What we heard is that one of the assistant coaches had reported the athlete to the coach for misbehaving. The coach then took the athlete along to reprimand her and took her to his home where the alleged incident is said to have happened,” Mbaiwa said in an interview.
He, however, says the alleged perpetrator has denied the allegations saying while he indeed took the athlete to his house, he only gave her a hug and had in no way sexually molested her.
Mbaiwa says after the report, another two female athletes reported allegations of the same nature against the very same coach. He says since these athletes are minors, the Gaborone Team committee then called in parents of the athletes and the decision was then taken to report the case to the Police.
Commenting on the allegations, Gaborone West Police Station Commander, Superintendent Bonnie Bareki, confirmed that they have the case which he says is still under investigations.
“Investigation into this case is very complex as it involves minors who we need to protect, but I can confirm that yes we are investigating a case of such nature. We expect it to be wrapped up very soon and we will then hand the docket over to the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) to check whether it can go for prosecution,” Superintendent Bareki said.
He added that the reason for prolonged investigation is also due to the fact that as the alleged victims are minors, the case involves a number of people, including parents and social workers.
Asked for comment, the Botswana Games Manager, Lobone Kasale, lamented the alleged incident, saying it has no place in sports.
“This is even more unfortunate as it affects upcoming athletes whose careers may be ruined if it is not handled properly. We are very disappointed that such incidents occur. We believe this is an eye opener for us as the games organisers and teams to ensure that incidents of such nature never come up again,” Kasale said.
The Botswana Games Organiser says, with the code of conduct in place for the games, incidents of such nature were not expected; more so that the code of conduct was even signed by coaches and, most importantly, they believed only responsible coaches were selected.
He says regardless of the outcome of the case, they will be looking at other ways to ensure the safety of athletes in future.
“We won’t be waiting for the outcome of the case, but rather, we believe it is time for us to campaign for the selection of responsible people to lead our junior athletes in all games,” Kasale opined.
He, however, called for the sensible handling of the issue, which he says has the potential to ruin the future of concerned athletes or even the games as it can make parents question the safety of their children.