Botswana’s reputed athlete, Amantle Montsho, became the centre of the political storm on Friday at parliament.
Members of the opposition and the ruling party wrestled out in parliament over the World Champion’s failure to win a medal at the just ended 2012 Olympic Games.
Leading the onslaught during the Ministers’ question time, the leader of the opposition, Botswana Congress Party’s Dumelang Saleshando, pushed the unexpected embarrassment onto the doorstep of Shaw Kgathi, scoffing at the minister and his entourage and of the poor performance as they attended the world’s extravaganza only to enjoy themselves.
“I wonder what kind of a leader you are. Are you really serious? I was not a tourist. I went to the Olympics so that I could answer silly questions like yours,” retorted Kgathi, saying Amantle did not perform badly at the games just because she did not obtain a medal, let alone gold.
“If you have been following the event, Amantle did not perform badly as some of you might think. Competition is not a given. You set yourselves winning constituencies but you came with 11,” he further rebuked, saying the reason Amantle was unable to obtain any medal should not be placed on anybody’s shoulders as they are still awaiting the Olympic Committee report. “They will compile the report and we will let you know the findings. We should not rush into issues before there are fully prepared,” he added, calling on the Gaborone Central MP to exercise patience.
But Saleshando would not be convinced, saying on the previous statement about the tournament the same minister promised to update the House in no time, wondering what on earth could be holding him back from shedding light on simple issues, including the names of the entourage that accompanied him, apart from those with direct roles at the games.
It is believed the entourage was too bloated, some without direct roles. Not naming their names and roles, Kgathi dug in his heels, maintaining that all those that boarded the plane had the responsibilities to do at the tournament.
He dismissed BCP’s Isaac Mabiletsa’s question that wanted to know the number of times the country participated at the Olympics, to which the now fuming Kgathi described as “political ignorance”.
Kgathi also attributed Amantle’s unsatisfactory performance to her previous competitions ahead of the Olympics that might have “over-raced her”. Touted to come home with a medal, Amantle could only obtain fourth position, just two seconds from a bronze medal.
The World 400m Champions winner was the hope of Batswana, only to break the hearts of many despite performing so well en-route to the finals. Botswana would, however, be given a ray of hope as the unknown 800m runner, Nijel Amos, managed to secure a silver medal.
Talk has it that Amantle was without a coach, not to mention a psychologist, during the final.
Kgathi promised a thorough explanation as such statements have reached his office. He accused the opposition, particularly the BCP, of witch-hunt tactics, insisting they did not have the interests of the athletes at heart, calling on the House to ignore the party’s rhetoric and rally behind the athletes whom he said have “done very well”.
“Should we have collected the gold, I would not be surprised to see it dangling on your chest,” Saleshando fired at Kgathi, adding that his motion was a noble one intended for the minister to enlighten the House about lessons learnt, future expectations and targets set, particularly that “our athletes according to reports were dealt a raw deal”.
Local athletes that participated at the Olympics are expected home tomorrow (Monday).