Monday, May 17, 2021

Khama’s continued position as BFA patron has now become a governance albatross

This week President Ian Khama was quoted by BBC expressing disappointment at Botswana Football Association for having voted with Sepp Blatter at a recent FIFA Congress.

Sepp Blatter has since resigned, barely four days after his re-election of what would have been a fifth term. FIFA is currently besieged by investigations stemming from corruptions allegations. Other very senior executives of the world football body have also been implicated.

So much rests on the ongoing investigations. We have no problem with President Khama expressing an opinion on BFA and indeed on FIFA. Like President Khama, the whole of the world is repelled by the allegations of corruption at FIFA. And has been for some time now. But for now those allegations remain just that; allegations ÔÇô very much like the many allegations of corruptions besieging president Khama’s government here at home. All of a sudden FIFA has become a sitting duck and everybody can claim to be holier-than-thou. But that is a digression.

The fact of the matter is that FIFA has been a thorn on the side of President Khama for quite a while now. And it would seem like the President is now using this opportunity to get at those at FIFA who have been source of trouble for him. To put the matter into context for some time FIFA has been calling on Botswana Government to hand over the Constituency Football League to BFA. For the record, Constituency League is a creation of the president. FIFA accused Botswana government of politicising football and also of running a parallel league which is a taboo under FIFA.

“It was so painful and such a pity that he decided to stand as FIFA president after a period that he’d been presiding over so much corruption in that world body,” President Khama told the BBC. According to BBC Khama added that he was disappointed that African football federations, including Botswana’s, backed Mr Blatter as “if he was god’s gift to the game”. “There are so many people out there who could be FIFA presidents, who could do as much or even more for the continent in terms of development,” he added.

We are surprised that the president did not tell BBC that he is the patron of BFA. We think by continuing as BFA patron and also criticising it publicly, the President has vindicated those of us who over the years pointed out that his position had now become untenable. To be fair to him, Khama was made patron long before he joined politics. At the time he was a sport enthusiast at the Botswana Defence Force. But circumstances have changed. And this much he should have long recognised. He cannot be a patron of BFA and also be a head of state at the same time. When there is conflict, as there is now between his two roles, the whole thing degenerates into a messy governance issue. Khama’s comments to BBC we presume were made in his capacity as Head of State. But he must at the same time respect, at least in public the BFA position of which he is a Patron. This makes it very clear that President Khama should now resign his position at BFA.

It is not clear why even as a sitting president with all the powers given under the national constitution, President Khama would want to keep an honorary position as patron of Botswana Football association. This position makes it difficult for the football association to manage soccer affairs. We all know that in Botswana government, through the Botswana National Sports Council (as it once was called) is by far the biggest underwriter of all sporting codes.

This alone gives Botswana Government, through the ministry of Sports to dictate and run roughshod over professional sport administrators. Just this week the Minister of Sports, Thapelo Olopeng also added his five cent to the FIFA debate effectively mimicking and parroting what his friend and master had been saying to BBC. This has put BFA under further political pressure.

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