It was Mpule Kwelagobe, then Amantle Montsho and now it is the Zebras, who hoisted Botswana’s flag in the international arena.
There is no doubt that this country has huge potential, which, together with requisite political leadership, can explode into massive opportunities. The Zebras have shown their potential, though they were overwhelmed by factors such as altitude, welfare (including poor incentives and alleged poor hospitality at hotels), apparent technical and other shortcomings, they have made the nation proud.
It is intended here to go off the pitch and apportion the blame. This article argues that lack of political commitment manifested itself into the not so inspiring performance by our mighty Zebras. The Zebras debutant participation in AFCON has exposed the unwillingness of particularly the (political) leadership to do what it takes to unleash the latent potential in the country which for all intents and purposes remains in the shadow of itself.
As the Zebras gallantly galloped into AFCON, they immediately became a symbol of unity, a rallying point to a country tittering on the brink of debilitating socio political and economic acrimony. The Sunday Standard editorial of the December 18-24, 2011 “Has CAF sold out poor African Countries” barked the wrong tree as the real culprits are in our mist as will be demonstrated in this article.
Moeng Pheto, the former Minister of Sports, Youth & Culture announced in a Btv program of Matho a phage in August 2005 that Botswana was not going to bid to host 2010 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) because it is expensive, he said that it would cost about P1.6 billion to bid and host, which money could be used in other government projects (Mmegi 8th August 2005) such as labor intensive program (P298 million in 2010/11) and constituency league which guzzle huge sums of money.
The cost/benefit analysis that informed such a decision is suspect. Attention was not given to the envisaged benefits to the economy of hosting AFCON on the year that world cup was billed for South Africa. A chance to debate these pertinent issues that we are grappling with was squandered. The minister was bold and decisive, in a soldierly way and surely ready for combat and the nation wilted, retreated and recoiled. Paradoxically the same minister, together with his government colleagues said they wanted the nation to explore possibilities of salvaging something from the world cup, which was just political posturing. When the FA (England) crew came to inspect our facilities and flattered us, it was clear that they were simply being nice and did not seriously consider them adequate and suitable.
Hosting prestigious cups does not come cheap, wining such cup is not an event but rather a process; it requires dedication, devotion and commitment, particularly from the political leadership. The government decision not to support BFA bid for 2010 AFCON was a slap on the face. Costs alone should not have been the overriding factor.
This has been exacerbated by lack of sporting facilities and inadequate technical support. Botswana even with its small population can and should position itself to take bigger challenges; one of the 2012 AFCON co-hosts has a population of 1.5 million. Other developments that government prefers over hosting prestigious cups could be expedited by the benefits accruing from hosting such cups. For instance construction costs that go into stadia and other capital costs are recoverable by the time the cup finishes.
The costs that government saw as inhibiting us to bid and host AFCON were going to be reinvested in constructing better facilities, improving roads, expanding, refurbishing existing facilities and bolstering employment creation. Countries that have relatively weaker economies than Botswana have and continue to make attempts to host AFCON and other cups. This country’s political leadership is oblivious of the enormous benefits (financial, social and political) outlined herein that can be derived from modern day sport and leisure industries, unfortunately the nation continue to vote them again and again, thus institutionalizing mediocrity, letsema le tsweletse.