Friday, July 10, 2020

OF MICE AND MEN … THE BFA STORY AND OF BABITSENG

“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, in proving foresight may be vain; the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley, an’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, for promis’d joy.” – Robert Burns – To a Mouse (poem)

Like the mouse in Burns’ classic poem, when the BFA National Executive Committee (NEC) used the resolution of the association’s 2015 Annual General Assembly (AGA) to ‘kick Babitseng out of football,’ they may have thought they had sheltered themselves from troubles.

But as the BFA may have realised by now, ‘foresight may be vain’ and even ‘the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley (the best-laid plans of mice and men go often askew).

With the ‘bitter and piercing winds of BFA elections underway,’ the confusion over the status of Babitseng is threatening to ‘scatter the feeble walls of Lekidi.’

Just two weeks ago at the BFA AGA, the Gunners chairman did the unthinkable, making a cameo appearance at the AGA even though he was allegedly banned from football.

This past week, Babitseng nearly brought the Botswana Premier League (BPL) board meeting to an abrupt end when he attended. However, after deliberations, the board resolved to provisionally allow him to attend the meeting.

In what may prove a banana peel for the BFA, the BPL board also resolved to write to the BFA seeking clarity on the status of Babitseng.

Now with the question of Babitseng’s suspension from BFA activities coming out in the open, those close to the matter say the BFA may finally be forced to confront the matter heads on.

According to sources, while the BFA would like to take action against Babitseng, no one in the NEC wants to shoulder the responsibility.

It is alleged that with no one in the NEC willing to take the responsibility, writing to the Gunners chairman is proving difficult as ‘no one is willing to sign his letters.’

“What has transpired over the matter is that the BFA has seemingly been talking to third parties on the matter and not directly engaging Babitseng,” another source explains.

He continues; “instead of writing to Babitseng, the BFA NEC writes to anyone associated with him, it is either Gunners or the BPL. In all the situations, they state that Babitseng should not associate with the parties. At the said BPL board meeting, Babitseng stated he has not been suspended and that the association has not even written to him about his suspension, hence the decision to seek clarity.”

“It seems like the BFA is scared to write to Babitseng to tell him of his alleged suspension as doing that may kick start judicial proceedings which the BFA may not be able to defend against,” the source alleges.

Reached for comment, the defiant Gunners chairman confirmed his attendance of the BPL Board meeting ‘as the chairman of Gunners.’

“As far as I know, I am not suspended from BFA activities as it is alleged. I have not received any letter of suspension whatsoever from the association,” he says. “All I get to see are allegations from the media that I am suspended but nothing has been communicated to me by the association,” he explains.

Asked about the BFA NEC 2015 resolution to relieve him of his duties, a decision which was also rectified by the BFA AGA in that same year, Babitseng says it only ‘relieved him of his duties’ as the BFA Vice President Administration.

“I agree 100% that I was relieved of my duties in the BFA NEC. However, the BFA NEC or AGA never suspended me from the association activities,” he says.

Babitseng says prior to the BFA elective AGA, the matter of his alleged suspension from BFA activities cropped up but it was dismissed by the association electoral board, clearing him to stand for elections.

“There is no written communication or even resolution to the effect that I was suspended from BFA activities. If there is, I am waiting to be furnished with such,” he says.

On whether he has retired monies he allegedly misused or misappropriated as the head of delegation for the Zebras’ 2014 visit to Guinea Bissau, the Gunners chairman says he is not aware that he owes the association.

“I am yet to receive a letter of demand from the BFA with regards to the said monies. I am not aware that I owe the association anything. If there is anything I owe, let the BFA write to me and inform me. I cannot just go to the BFA and pay a debt which I do not know of,” he says.

“If anyone alleges that I am suspended or that I owe the association, please tell him to furnish with a letter of demand for payment or a suspension letter detailing the reasons for such and the length of my suspension,” Babitseng concludes.

Commenting on the matter, one BFA official referred Sunday Standard to the 2015 BFA AGA meeting minutes, which speaks of the Babitseng matter.

‘Following an investigation that established inconsistencies and irregularities in the use of funds relating to a national team trip to Guinea Bissau, Mr Tariq Babitseng, VP (administration) has been relieved of his duties at BFA. The position of VP (Administration) will be co-opted in due course,’ reads point 11.3.2.2 of the minutes.

When it was pointed out to the BFA official that the minutes do not speak of any suspension, he opines that by virtue of him being relieved of his duties from the BFA by the NEC and the decision being rectified by the AGA, Babitseng was ‘automatically suspended’ from association activities.

He adds that it should not escape the mind that Babitseng still owes the BFA monies from the said Guinea Bissau trip. He says given that the association had to pay the Botswana National Sports Council (now Commission) for the misappropriated funds, Babitseng was liable to pay the association.

“As long as he remains a debtor due to him not retiring the contingency funds he misappropriated, he is suspended. If he pays, he will be absolved,” the official explains.

On whether there were any proceedings against Babitseng, the BFA official says as the decision to ‘relieve him of his duties’ was taken by the BFA NEC and rectified by the association AGA, there was no need for any hearing against him.

“He (Babitseng) is right, ga a seka (he has had no hearing),” the official explains. “You must be aware that at the time he was relieved of his duties, the decision was taken by the highest structures, being the BFA NEC. This is the structure of higher authority than all the judicial structures. There was thus no need for a hearing,” he says.

The BFA official says as it is, there is no need for the association to undertake any proceedings against Babitseng as he has been suspended by the highest structures of football.

Attempts to get an official comment from the BFA Secretariat on the matter have since not borne fruit and the association is yet to answer a questionnaire from Sunday Standard.

Reached for comment, BFA Public Relations Officer (PRO) Tumo Mpatane referred all correspondence on the matter to the office of the association’s Chief Executive Officer Mfolo Mfolo.

For his part, the BFA CEO who said he was in a meeting promised to get back to this publication. However, at the time of going to press, the BFA CEO had not answered the questionnaire nor returned the call.

To borrow from Burns once again, as the BFA and Babitseng circle each other, for local football, the battle ‘… lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy’ (.. leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy).

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

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