Saturday, July 11, 2020

Our sports heroes, heroines deserve a raise not pittance: period

BY PATIENCE LEPHOGOLE

From time to time workers go on strike due to low wages or looking for an increase in their salaries, which they gradually get with time.

If I recall well, just this past month April, military personnel got an increase which they even called ‘Ntlole’.

Despite several changes in workers’ pay over the years it becomes an irony that sports allowances have not been increased nor reviewed for a long time. Years back, teachers went on strike, only for them to show a 3% raise.

A sad reality has befallen our national heroes, who are sports athletes who have not had any increase in their wages.

Is it sport is run like politics? After performance of athletes they are all forgotten until the next call for camp, just like politicians after elections? Several sporting codes are affected by this. Is it sport is taken as a leisure activity only and not a source of income?

Does the government forget that if it wasn’t for such athletes there wouldn’t be sport in the country? This would mean several opportunities that are brought on by sports and athletes would not be available for benefit by the country.

I remember on the 11th of April this year I came across Botswana’s sensational netballer Portia Rasekhumba ‘s facebook post written “Tota jaanong koketso ya madi e ama ba ba amogelang ka kgwedi fela, national sports athletes ba ba fiwang ditebogo nako nngwe bone ga gona ha ba tsenang teng? Ke baithaopi fela? Mme kana baithaopi ba bangwe ba bona sengwe kgwedi le kgwedi. Kana yone ke ya ka kwa? Ke boletsa bonnake yame tiro ke e weditse. Kana go botsa ka madi as an athlete itlhela o kare o  molato wa teng ijooh!”

She further revealed that “People forget we have to pay bills as well. Athletes are the dinosaurs of sport- we still get out there and play purely for the love of this country. The amount of sacrifice and hard work is too much. Le ba ipelegeng ba botoka because they get something monthly. Where on earth does a constituency league get support more than those who represent the country?” This means that even those working for government initiative dubbed ‘ipelegeng’ are better than athletes, as they get paid on monthly basis, though they work daily unlike athletes.

The comments in her post attracted a lot of people, from athletes themselves to sports administration officers. The interesting response that caught my eye was “Is there any leader who has ever advocated for national athletes’ welfare? Even on the past?

My status is based on the fact that pula ya na, mme ere e na jaana lerothodi le wele le ko mabaleng go kwakwaletse thata.” This means that people are getting increases, arguing that why can’t the same fate befall on sports athletes as well.

Athletes have been getting allowances, however, there was a time when allowances were put to an end for other codes. Surprisingly enough, the allowances were discontinued in November, after the BNSC admitted the system had become difficult to implement.

The scheme was introduced in 2012 and over the years, but last November, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) decided to halt it. The decision drew mixed reactions, with critics arguing that it was the only way to keep players motivated.

Now with questions such as has there been a leader advocating for welfare of athletes in terms for finances, why won’t athlete’s allowances be increased, eyes befall on the organisation responsible for those.

According to Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Development Officer Bobby Gaseitsiwe, athletes do get allowances. He said “They get them on every sanctioned competition and local camps. For local camp athletes get P50-P100 per day. As for Region they get USD20, and continent or word it is USD30 per day.”

“There is a condition that qualifies a player for such allowance, that they should be part of a national team, as it is given to athletes during national sports duties,” he added.

Moreover, Gaseitsiwe said allowance initiative has been in existence for more than 20 years, adding that it must be noted that there were incentives and appearance policy which was introduced in the last 6 years.

He further revealed that they are aware that these allowances are way over due, that it was about time they reviewed them. “We have the same allowances for 10 years and it is our intention to review the allowance policy in the 2019/20 financial year,” he noted.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

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