It is easy to get lost in translation. This may be the case with the issue of Botswana’s first ever weightlifting Olympian Magdeline Moyengwa. For a few days now, there has been confusion on whether the diminutive athlete had taken a break or retired from sport.
Worse still, there have been allegations that culture and family had finally triumphed and forced her out. This has once again thrust the culture of the BaZezuru tribe of Botswana under scrutiny and threatened to once and for all bring to an end the budding career of Moyengwa. She says in the aftermath of the ‘untruths,’ surrounding the issue, she thought of quitting the sport. The ‘untruths,’ as the athlete calls them, have hurt her, her husband and her family.
In the athlete’s own words, she took a break to deal with some issues of her own life. She says that her culture and family, including her husband have nothing to do with the current news trending of her stepping down from weightlifting.
“After the Olympics I decided to take a break to deal with some areas of my life. I have engaged Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), my therapist and also gave my coach a heads up about my intention to take a break. They all acknowledged my decision,” she explained.
Going deeper into the matter, the 20-year-old said the news that she was vacating sport due to her husband and cultural dynamics deeply hurt her. She says it pained her even more when her culture and her husband were labelled as cruel.
“I have been doing weightlifting for the past five years now and my culture never at any point stopped me from taking part. I can surely confirm that yes I am married, I was married on the 7th of March and even after my marriage I participated in four competitions including the Olympics and throughout all of them my husband and family were supporting and encouraging me,” she further said.
What hurt her the most, she said, were the comments attributed to her coach ‘Alex Rankgwe’ where he is alleged to have said ‘her culture is intervening in her sport career.’ Of the comment, the one that astounded her was the one which read “Moyengwa’s spouse had asked her to quit the sport.”
“Upon hearing the news about my retirement from sport and what my coach said about him, my husband decided to call Rankgwe asking why he implicated him in his statement. That caused more friction and only inflamed the situation as Rankgwe went about saying my husband did not speak to him well. Due to the heated argument between the two, a thought then crossed my mind that maybe I should do as they said and leave for good,” she clarified.
The decision was however averted, thanks largely to the intervention of the various sports stakeholders. Beyond news hounds and public scrutiny, talks were ongoing between the athlete, Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) and organizations like Women in Sport Botswana (WASBO). Now, Batswana can expect to see Moyengwa back in sport next year after her break.
“Almost all athletes which took part in the Olympics took a break and nothing was said of them leaving sport. Sadie Kenosi of boxing has been on break but it seems like I am not allowed a break,” she elaborated.
One of the few people to have been close to Moyengwa, even before the new headlines is none other than female advocate Game Mothibi. Commenting on the matter, Mothibi said her understanding has always been that the athlete’s husband had nothing to do with her taking a break.
“We are all from different cultures and backgrounds and everyone’s culture is strong one way or the other. As for the husband, he may be just a little jealous like any other man but he understands that Moyengwa loves sport. There are so many in between’s which I feel something could have been done to avoid such,” Mothibe said.
“Her culture on the other hand has had its own role to play in her career and her father was her biggest support but unfortunately he is no more which may have led to her break. Nonetheless, when it comes to female and culture issues, I warned leaders in sport and told them what to do and they ignored me and now we are here,” she continued
On the other hand, Mothibe noted that Moyengwa has a strong character and she speaks her mind; if she does make the robust decision to leave sport completely the country would lose quality leadership and an advocate.
“Unfortunately, we do not have systems that help in such matter and we also do not know how to act in these kinds of situations. Even if a parent was to resist their child from participating in sport we would not know how to react as we do not have structures put in place for such situations,” she concluded.
Executive Committee Member of WASBO, Keenese Katisenge- Tizhani said after talks with Moyengwa in understanding the matter at hand, Moyengwa did confirm her stay and continuation in sport.
“She has confirmed to WASBO that, just as other athletes, locally and internationally have done in the past and continue to do, she has taken a break from sport to focus on other commitments. She intends to return to play, to continue her participation and competition in the sport that she loves being weightlifting,” she said.