As the victorious Botswana Karate team arrived to much adulation from the just ended Zone 6 championships, one karateka was left ruing what could have happened had she been given a chance to compete. In what was a heartbreaking moment, Botswana’s All Africa Games bronze medalist, Merrylin Manthe, was left stunned after the Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) told her to choose between sport and education before she was dropped from the national team.
In the days leading to the crucial Zone 6 championships that were played in Harare, Zimbabwe, Manthe, who was due to write her examinations, was informed there could be no special arrangement made for her by BOKA to enable her to join the team later in Zimbabwe.
The Karateka, who is a final year student at the University of Botswana (UB) did not travel with the rest of the team to Harare after failing to reach a mutual agreement with the association regarding her examinations’ schedule. The team departed to Harare on Thursday morning.
Explaining her ordeal, Manthe said she gave BOKA two available options that could have seen her travel with the team but they did not materialize.
“My final exam was on Friday from 11 to 1pm. That is why I couldn’t travel with the team. I asked the Association to at least book a flight for me which would cost me 2,300 BWP so that I join the team on Friday afternoon, they told me that they don’t have enough funds to make that arrangement for me. When I asked them if they would pay for my supplementary exam if I missed exams to join the team, they rejected the option also,” she explained.
The 2015 All Africa games bronze medalist further stated that after failing to reach a solution regarding the issue the team manager Mrs. Lere Basupang then asked her to “choose between the tournament and the exams” which she deemed not fair.
“We had along fruitless meeting with Mrs Basupang because she was suggesting impossible ideas which I couldn’t exercise, she even asked me to seek monetary assistance from my family so that I can fly to Harare but my parents said they cannot pay for my flight ticket while I was on national duty,” she remarked.
“My team mates even opted to contribute for my flight ticket but BOKA warned against that. It’s clear that they didn’t want me to travel with them if not so they could have found a way to get me to Zimbabwe. I knocked on BOKA doors everyday seeking help but I was given the final feedback at 1pm on the eve of the team’s departure to Zimbabwe.”
With the Zone 6 championships serving as a selection tournament for the Africa senior championships and the World Karate Federation World Championships, Manthe said she was looking forward to them as she wanted to qualify for both tournaments.
“I was looking forward to the Africa senior championships, unfortunately things didn’t turn my way am hoping for the coaches to fight for me to get back into the team when they return from Harare. That’s why female Karatekas don’t last in the sport, there is no motivation and they don’t want this ill treatment and they don’t take us serious” stressed the soft spoken Manthe.
Contrary to what Manthe shared with this publication, when reached for comment, Team manager, Lere Basupang said there was no ploy of sabotage to Manthe concerning her failure to depart to Zimbabwe. She said contrary to that, they took the decision to leave her behind as BOKA considered her education as a priority.
“We did not intentionally leave her behind. She was part of the team but due to unforeseen circumstances. The decision to leave her was exercised after we considered lots of factors. If she went to Zimbabwe on Friday, she was also going to miss the toss and weighing that is conducted on the same day. We couldn’t afford to book a flight for her due to the association financial constraints. I sat her down as the manager and I advised her put her education first. We did not ask her to choose between the tournament and her studies because education determines her future. We just weighed the options and we opted to leave her behind as her parents also wanted her to sit for her exams,” she explained.
Meanwhile Ofentse Bakwadi, Oratile Caiphus and Sensei Peter Molefhe flew to Zimbabwe on Thursday afternoon through the help of BOKA and Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC).
The same arrangement could not be made for Manthe.