On the first anniversary of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, Moeng Pheto says that his ministry has made major strides in turning the wheels of fortune in favour of Batswana athletes.
Says the minister: “The performance of our athletes has improved both nationally and internationally. In volleyball we are second only to South Africa in the region. In boxing we are ranked number one in the region; in high and long jump we are in the top 10, not in Africa but in the whole world. We are ranked number 11 in the world in 400 meters for men, fourth in Africa for women’s 400 meters; we are doing well in karate internationally and in football we are ranked 123rd in the world and 24th in Africa. Last year, we hosted the first ever national games under the auspices of the Botswana National Sports Council. It was a big event that gave young athletes from all over Botswana an opportunity to compete.”
While Pheto says that his ministry cannot claim glory alone for such achievements, he adds that it played a crucial role in bringing “more focus, more attention” to sporting activities in general.
“We were there for athletes, we motivated them and we gave them attention they never enjoyed before,” he said.
The minister also expressed satisfaction that likewise in the field of culture, the country was making good progress.
“Our musicians are gaining both regional and international recognition. Some of our traditional troupes have performed in countries such as the United States and France. We are now at a point where we are able to export our music,” Pheto says.
Last year, two Batswana musicians won awards from a South African music channel that broadcasts to the whole of Africa.
The ministry has also been able to significantly improve youth empowerment whose budget has been increased to a total of P30 million from P3 million. Perhaps the most notable of such empowerment schemes is the youth grant fund through which selected youth entrepreneurs are given grants to start their own businesses.
“The government recognises that the youth are an important sector that can help shape the future of the country. The youth are also aware what government assistance is available to them,” the minister says.
Pheto’s ministry was created last January after intense lobbying from within and outside the government to split the ministry of Labour and Home Affairs. Previously, Culture, Youth and Sports were combined into a single department under the latter.
Just to illustrate how unwieldy the old structure was, Pheto says that when he was Labour and Home Affairs minister and had to liaise with colleagues in South Africa responsible for similar portfolios in his ministry, he had to deal with nine ministers.
The lobbying for the separation of the ministry, Pheto reveals, took place even within his own party, the Botswana Democratic Party. The ministry came into being in the middle of the 2006/07 financial year and therefore did not have its own budget. That being the case the different departments had to subsist on funds that had already been allocated to them at the beginning of the financial year.
Funding is still a challenge and, in some instances, the ministry has to seek the assistance of the private sector. Pheto says that while both big and small companies have been immensely helpful, they could use a bit more of such assistance.
“Of course we would have to run our ministry well so that those companies can get returns on their investment,” he says.
The key areas that the ministry is currently focusing on are youth empowerment programmes and projects, strengthening Botswana National Youth Council, the setting up of new structures such as the National Arts Council, Toutswe Mogala Cultural Village, the establishment of multi-purpose youth centers, review of the Botswana National Sports Council Act and the Monuments and Relics Act.