Saturday, July 11, 2020

Local athletes are being short changed over what?

BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE

“When the current executive committee took over after the abdication of the Moses Bantsi led committee, we always knew all this would happen. The only surprising thing is that they lasted this long in office,” one local athletics administrator opined when asked about the current mess at the Botswana Athletics Association.

For the administrator, who was commenting on condition of anonymity, the BAA has all along been falling apart, and the current failure to send Botswana Relays team was just the final straw to end two years of comical mismanagement.

It is said successes garnered by the local athletes in international arena has helped hide a catalogue of errors from the BAA.

In the catalogue is the near failure of Isaac Makwala to compete at the Londo 2017 World Championships, the failure to send the national team to the World Under 20 Championships at Tampere, Finland in 2018.

“This year, the BAA once again failed to send a team to the Junior and Youth Championships in Abidjan, Ivory Coast,” the source revealed.

This week, the Botswana relay teams, which had performed so well at the World Relays in 2017, missed the chance to once again compete at the biggest relay events in the world which would have qualified them for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, would they have finished among the top 10 teams.

At the Bahamas World Relays two years ago, Botswana’s 4X400 men’s relay team had finished second behind the United States of America, while the women finished 8th overall, a first for Botswana.

Now, a blame game has ensued between the BAA and the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC), with the BAA accusing the local sports controlling body of sabotage.

Speaking in an interview, the BAA Vice President Kenneth Kikwe said the BNSC had not facilitated the release of monies to facilitate the processing of visas to Yokohama, Japan nor the monies for athletes’ flight tickets.

“Even if they could have given us monies to process the Visas, which they did not do, it would still have been impossible to process them if we did not have flight tickets detailing when we will arrive in Japan and when we would exit the country,” Kikwe said.

However, according to a source, this is all a ruse by the BAA to deflect a blame as the BNSC had on the 8th of May, availed funds for the processing of Visas, this only a day after the BAA had applied for such.

“The BAA submitted a request for funds on the 7th of May and the BNSC promptly acted on it. There was also an agreement in place by the Japanese embassy to help the BAA process the visas before noon on May 8, only for the BAA to pitch up late in the afternoon when the embassy was already closed,” the source said.

The source however said had the BAA not squandered the funds at their disposal, the association would not have had so many difficulties sending teams to the relays to the World Relays.

“Sometimes early this year, the BAA received US$20 000 (+/- P200 000) as a dividend from the Olympics Committee. That money is unaccounted for,” the source said.

It is said in March alone, at least four members of the BAA executive consistently withdrew monies from the association coffers. As evidence to such, sources gave the Sunday Standard a glimpse of the BAA’s Stanbic Business Account, which showed consistent withdrawals by some BAA officials.

With accusations against the BAA executive coming thick and fast, some affiliates have already petitioned the BAA to call a Special General Meeting (SGM), at which it is alleged they intend to call on them to resign from office as they had failed their mandate.

Commenting on the matter, Kikwe said there is no need for the Thari Mooketsi led BAA executive to consider resigning from office as they had performed very well since coming into office.

“Over the period of our stay in office, our athletes have performed very well in international events and we have won medals at the World Relays as well as a good haul at the Commonwealth Games,” he said.

“We have also managed to organise courses for our coaches and officials, something which was very rare before we came into office. We also tried to empower all who are actively involved in athletics, something which was not regularly done.”

On the issue of funds, the BAA Vice President said as far as the current committee is concerned, monies have been used well and for the benefit of the association and its affiliates.

Kikwe said for the March withdrawals, the association had a lot of events which it financed, among them a 22 day coaching course in which they had two facilitators, as well as the BAA championships in Francistown.

The BAA vice president said as far as he is concerned, those calling for the committee to resign are doing so for personal gain not because the current committee is underperforming.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.