Monday, July 4, 2022

Inside Kemoeng’s 21 year stay at BNSC

His last few months at Botswana National Sports Council proved to be the most difficult of Kagiso Kemoeng’s 21 year stay at the Council.

Over the 21 years he had worked with so many Board members of so much varied personalities that he thought he was among the best prepared people on earth to withstand the most trying of the hardships.

He had fought so many battles and won so many of them that he felt prepared to take anything that could be thrown his way.
He had little idea of what history had in store for him.

In a very glaring way, Kemoeng’s last months at BNSC represent the climactic chapter in Botswana’s murky sports world.

Relations with his Board of Directors, especially the Chairman, Solly Reikeletseng were the lowest he had ever had with any Board Chairman. And he had worked with no fewer than seven BNSC Chairpersons.

The fact that the Chairman was just coming meant that the road ahead was not only longer but most likely bumpier as well. And so it was.

In a broader sense, Reikeletseng’s arrival into the scene had preceded the new Chairman’s reputation.
No stranger to BNS Reikeletseng had a decade earlier worked at the Council as Executive Assistant and by the time he left he had amassed debts exceeding P70 000. Under Kemoeng’s management this debt and others outstanding from other former employees had already been handed over to the lawyers for recouping.

A combative and transparently ambitious young turk, Reikeletseng’s second coming at BNSC literally ignited the old demons that had somehow been kept away from the public. For close watchers it was apparent from early on that Reikeletseng’s arrival was the clearest signal yet that the balance of power was shifting away from Kemoeng. Although he could not confirm it, close sources reveal that Kemoeng felt very strongly that Reikeletseng’s appointment compromised the BNSC. It is suggested that ahead of the appointment he was so concerned about the rumour of Reikeletseng as the incoming Chairman that, although this was beyond him, Kemoeng, always a victim of own forthrightness, made no attempt to hide his reservations. He confirms, without going into detail that he shared his discomforts with the relevant authorities; all in vain as the appointment went ahead anyway.

Predictably, Kemoeng and Reikeletseng was a match made in hell.

Once the appointment was made, kemoeng did not know whether to continue pursuing Reikeletseng for the Council debt as he was now his boss, nor did his principals, who were now also under Reikeletseng’s leadership.

One former official of BNSC has said it was like the Executive Committee under Reikeletseng was under specific instructions to get rid of Kemoeng.

Much is made of the close ties that Reikeletseng has with Minister responsible for Sports Shaw Kgathi. The underlying insinuation is that Kgathi deliberately salted the BNSC Board with allies who would not only do his bidding, but would also provide him with a leg up on what the Council Management was up to.

Reikeletseng’s appointment was announced at the BNSC annual general meeting last year July.

Within a month, his board is said to have met no less than four times, attracting allowances that were clearly becoming a burden on the Council. The frequent meetings are said to have elicited an official protest from Kemoeng who worried that the new board was now becoming operational. As a sign of things to come his concerns were brushed aside.

When we meet at his Phakalane house which also doubles as his office, Kemoeng is still convinced that his decision to leave BNSC was the right one.

“There was a standoff over governance issues. Hostility was so obvious,” he says as he recalls his last days at BNSC.

Many months after he left BNSC, he still looks back at his last days as clearly the worst of his 21 year stay at the Council. There were accusations and counter accusations.

His lowest point was when he was accused of undermining the Board, especially it’s chairperson, something that he denied as he had duty to respect his principals. That was, however, not enough to mend relations.

In a prepared statement bidding the media farewell after his departure from BNSC Kemoeng made references to “incompatibility” between him and his board as a key reason why had left the job he had done for over twenty years.

“Without saying who was wrong and who was right, one of the parties had to leave. They are 6 and I am 1. Under such circumstances, common sense dictates that the party with 1 person has to leave. I left in the interests of sports. Yes, I had vowed to leave at the end of my contract in February 2013, but fate simply had it otherwise. It was simply time for me to go. I have no further details on this matter, and please don’t ask me about it.”

On whether there were issues between him and the appointing authority for the BNSC chairperson, Kemoeng declined to comment. However insinuations in the sporting sector point to tainted relations from way back when Shaw Kgathi was the Director of Sports.

Sources point particularly to a commission of enquiry to investigate why Botswana teams were performing badly set about a decade ago. The commission which came to be known as the Seepapitso Commission was led by the late Kgosi Seepapitso of Bangwaketse. Kgathi was made the Secretary of the Commission and apparently the Council did not take kindly to this as in their view Kgathi was also under investigation and that it was wrong to have him sit on the Commission as secretary. Kemoeng recalls, confirming the Council’s suspicious attitude to the whole thing then. “We were vindicated when the Commission published its report with our salaries by name and designation”. He points out that it is possible that some of them could have been singled out for blame after the Council objected to the whole thing.

“Personally I had no problem with salaries and positions being published. But to literally put our names against the figures … I felt it kind of personalized the issue,” he continues.

Insiders also point to the BNSC’s reluctance to support the constituency tournaments, a government initiative that Kgathi is so passionate with. Even with all these Kemoeng does not believe that there is enough reason for a bad relation with his minister. “I would have been a victim of the Council’s position on issues. In any case as CEO I had to take responsibility for promoting and defending the Council’s position,” says Kemoeng.

“By resigning I clearly gave my Board what they had long wanted. Things had become so petty that so many of the promises made have since not been honoured. Relations have not improved even after my departure.”

Long after his departure stories continue to be planted on the media that he was an extravagant person who relocated BNSC offices to up-market locations that were above reach, stories that he attributes to people who do not bother to check facts.

Kemoeng says upon his resignation he offered to see some projects to the end. The offer was politely turned down by the Board.

As if that was not enough, Kemoeng points to efforts by the powers that be to withdraw his name from international positions that he holds, something that he describes as “absurd”.

As his parting shot, Kemoeng pointed out he does not want to annoy the system any further, adding that in all these things, the truth will come one say, one way or another.”

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