‘There is freedom of speech but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.” – Idi Amin
The words by Amin may soon take a truer meaning for one local football referee who opted to exercise his freedom of speech.
On the 25th of this month, local referee Letsogile Seroke will face the Botswana Football Association (BFA)’s disciplinary structure for publicly voicing his opinion about the association.
The referee recently received a letter of suspension after the BFA, acting along with the Referees Committee, took a decision ‘to suspend him with immediate effect’ pending a hearing.
In the letter, it is stated that the outspoken Seroke is ‘suspended from officiating any Botswana Football Association affiliated matches.’
According to the letter, the decision was taken ‘after a thorough inspection’ of his ‘opinions posted on social media.’
While the letter does not state what Seroke uttered nor what he is charged with, it however points out that ‘the BFA totally discourages individuals from airing out their political opinions in football matters especially match officials.’
Reached for clarity on the matter, BFA Public Relations Officer Tumo Mpatane said ‘it is against the referee’s code of conduct to participate in any politics of the association.’
“According to the Referees code of conduct they should not engage in any politics of the association be it as vocally or written in the public domain. His opinion was one sided but that is not the case,” Mpatane said.
He says as an official of the beautiful game within the association, Seroke is expected ‘to know his position and the code of conduct governing him.’
The same sentiments were shared by the BFA referees’ manager Phodiso Rasetsoga, who also signed the suspension letter.
While no one could explain the charges Seroke will face, sources say he was charged for contravening Article 2.9 of the BFA code of conduct.
The said code stipulates that, ‘no official shall do and or say anything or act in any manner that could in whatsoever way be seen to be bringing or having the potential to bring the good name of any member, official, structure or part of the association into disrepute’.
An insider in the association who spoke on condition of anonymity says even though the letter does not detail charges, Seroke is likely to be charged with ‘gross misconduct.’
The insider says the little digging he did shows or proves that the suspended Seroke ‘is too opinionated, a behavior which the association is against more especially among its officials.’
According to the insider, the outspoken referee had at one point ‘written about the association’s failure to help teams get players’ covid-19 government relief funds.’
The insider says at the time, Seroke had lamented that only players from two teams, being Township Rollers and Security Systems, had been credited with their relief monies.
“He wrote on social media that the association was not doing anything about seeing to it that the teams are credited. Mind you, we were always in talks with the government about crediting teams. So far, more teams have been credited and only a few are left,” says the source.
Meanwhile, local football commentator Kagiso Kgolagono says Seroke has ‘the responsibility to protect the organisation he is under’ even if ‘he does not agree with certain things.’
“We all have the responsibility to protect our organizations even when not happy with how certain things are. I cannot judge his opinion and what he may have said but the image of the organization depends on him as well as an individual,” he says.
Attempts by this publication to seek Seroke’s comment on the matter proved futile.