BY ANITA RANNOBA
A storm of controversy is swirling around Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) and is threatening to tear down its house of cards.
At the heart of the impending storm lies the close but controversial relationship between the BOKA president Tshepo Bathai and the senior national team coach Christopher Ponatshego.
The latest storm comes after Ponatshego was spared the axe while the other three national team coaches’ contracts were terminated.
Following the end of the Africa Karate Federation (UFAK) tournament which was hosted in Gaborone, coaches Moses Jones, Peter Molefe and George Tshikare were handed letters of termination of their coaching contract.
At the time, Molefe was the assistant coach to Ponatshego in the senior Karate national team while Jones and Tshikare were heading the Junior National karate team.
The news of the termination has come as a shocker for the recipients who are now breaking their code of silence as they try to unravel the mysterious friendship threatening to bring the sport to its knees.
Speaking exclusively to Sunday Standard, coach Molefe, who has been working as Ponatshego’s assistant, said he has been trying to hide so many things trying to protect his coach with the hope he would change.
However, with the senior national team coach seemingly not ready to change, Molefe said he has no option but to speak out as karate is being destroyed ‘in the name of friendship.’
In a candid interview with this publication, Molefe opined there is a lot that meets the eye with the relationship between Bathai and Ponatshego.
He went on to say the relationship between the two is shrouded with secrecy and only the two men ‘know what they have against each other.’
Molefe reckoned that during the just ended UFAK tournament, while all the other coaches reported to the technical department, Ponatshego was the exception as he only reported to Bathai.
He was however not surprised at the preferential treatment given to the senior national team as his appointment even raised eyebrows.
“We really do not know how Ponatshego was appointed head coach. While the three of us applied for our positions and were called for interviews before appointment, he on the other hand was handpicked by the BOKA President,” he explained.
Interestingly, Molefe went on to allege that Ponatshego is not qualified for the position he is holding as he failed all his tests.
“Last year Tshikare and i passed the Zone 6 and UFAK test and were certified to coach but Ponatshego failed both tests including the Africa karate coaching course. He does not have a certificate for any of them while Jones passed the Africa karate coaching course,” said Molefe
Molefe said he is still trying to figure out how the national team came to be led by an under qualified coach. The bemusing part about the whole matter for Molefe is that while he used to coach Ponatshego as an athlete, he is now his senior coach while he is better qualified than he is.
He went on to allege that even the things he is doing on the national team are very unprofessional. He accused Ponatshego of bias, saying he mostly picks athletes from his club.
As if that is not enough, Molefe said the coach selects injured athletes and leaves behind healthy and well performing athletes.
Even more perplexing for the coach is that while the Ponatshego led team underperformed at the UFAK championships, he still got spared while better performing coaches were shown the door.
Of the medals Botswana garnered at the UFAK championships, the senior team only mastered to bring bronze with all team Botswana silvers coming from the junior team.
“It does not make sense how the association will terminate people with good results leaving the one who is failing tremendously,” Molefe concluded.
Commenting on the termination of their contracts, Jones, who is part of the junior national team coaching staff said they were told they did not meet the demand as per agreement.
He was however adamant that this was just a lame excuse as the truth of the matter is they were never given any demands or goals to meet. He however said he was not surprised Ponatshego was not affected.
“About the two, they have been friends from way back. When BOKA elections came, Bathai needed Ponatshego votes to win. Remember, Bathai was previously kicked out from BOKA presidency through a motion of no confidence. When he came back he needed Ponatshego or full support. However, as to what the two have on each other, no one knows,” said Jones.
He too concurred that Ponatshego is not qualified to lead the senior team as a coach and went on to allege that all the job was done by Molefe. He highlighted that all the terminations were done to remove Molefe from the national team picture.
“They didn’t state more on our demands but I believe it was a way of getting rid of Molefe from the senior team. Molefe was the one training the team all the time but Ponatshego was considered over him even though he is not qualified,” he concluded.