Sunday, October 17, 2021

BTA sticks to its guns on Muzondiwa suspension

The Botswana Table Association (BTA) has denied any malice in its suspension of Notwane Tennis Club president Shingirai Muzondiwa.

This is despite allegations from some of its affiliates that the suspension of Muzondiwa was done solely to stop him from contesting for the BTA presidency.

Muzondiwa was slapped with a letter of suspension last month (January, 20) after “a disciplinary hearing’ that was allegedly held on the 13th of the same month.

In the said letter, the BTA informed Muzondiwa that the BTA Disciplinary Committee (DC) found him guilty on the two charges “he was facing” and ordered “that you be suspended from office for a period of three (3) years effective immediately”. 

“During your period of suspension, you are not allowed to be an office bearer of Botswana Tennis Association or any organisation/club affiliated in accordance with the BTA constitution, to Botswana Tennis Association. in line with best practice, it follows that you will also not be allowed to attend any meetings or gatherings of the Botswana Tennis Association, its affiliates and other stakeholders during the period of your suspension,” so reads an extract from Muzondiwa’s suspension letter.

Speaking to Sunday Standard, one affiliate said the suspension of Muzondiwa was a long concocted plot by the current BTA leadership to ensure that their preferred presidential candidate, Dr Khaulani Fichani, is not opposed during the BTA elections.

“What is very ironic is that the very same person who Muzondiwa was supposed to compete with for the BTA Presidential, Dr Fichani, is the very same person who led the Disciplinary Committee that suspended him (Muzondiwa). Under normal circumstances, this would constitute a conflict of interest. However, this is BTA and it is just normal,” the affiliate said.

Reached for comment, BTA secretary general Boikobo Gaolebalwe said Mozundiwa’s suspension “was not about the elections but was about a disciplinary hearing against a BTA affiliate member”.

“Fichani has always been the head of the BTA DC and there was no reason for him to recuse himself from the hearing. He knows he has to uphold the integrity of the association and we believe everything is done by the rule book,” Gaolebalwe explained.

According to Gaolebalwe, while the involvement of Fichani in the suspension of Muzondiwa could seem a conflict of interest to most people, more especially considering he was contesting with the latter for the presidency, the onus was on Muzondiwa to highlight such.

“Everything lies within the owner of the issue (Muzondiwa). There was no need for Dr Fichani to recuse himself from the case and as the owner of the issue, he failed to exercise his right to highlight that conflict of interest,” he explained.

This version is, however, disputed by Muzondiwa, who said he made it known to the BTA DC that he had no confidence in the proceedings against him.

“In my view, the whole disciplinary hearing was just a sham to bar me from contesting. The BTA knew I had the support of the affiliates and I was a front-runner to the presidency of the BTA, hence this plot to bar me and ensure their preferred candidate. Dr Fichani, goes to the elections unopposed,” Muzondiwa said. 

“What is surprising is that when I was prepared to go for the DC hearing in December 2016 and my witnesses were around, the BTA postponed it. They knew that my witnesses in the case were from South Africa and Namibia and I had to be afforded time to bring them in. Once they left, it would take another big effort to bring them back again as I was paying for them from my pocket,” he said.

To ensure that his witnesses were not available on the day of his hearing, Muzondiwa said the BTA DC resorted to informing him of his next hearing on January 10, just barely two days prior to their proposed hearing date on January 13.

 Muzondiwa said when he raised his grievances that he had not been informed well on time and requested postponements as he had commitments, the DC declined, informing him that they would continue with the hearing even in his absence. 

“All they did was tell me that it was unfortunate that the December hearing was postponed and they “had been informed that I was advised of the new date to allow you to plan your diary”. All this conversation took place on the same day I was informed I had to come for a disciplinary, something which is revealing on its own,” said the Muzondiwa.

“It was during this exchange that I informed the BTA DC that I had no confidence in the proceedings as they were malicious. Surprisingly, the BTA DC did not even bother to enquire about my grievances about the proceedings but rather opted to continue with them even in my absence,” he concluded.

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