Monday, June 24, 2024

The joke that is BFA internal governance mechanisms

As a religious follower of the beautiful game, I would have overtime followed how the Botswana Football Association (BFA) is run. I will have to say some of the decisions the Association takes are out of this world. They are jaw dropping if you ask me. Two issues have negatively stood out in the recent past. One is the dismissal and subsequent appointment of the current Chief Executive Officer Rre Mfolo Mfolo. The said dismissal communicated through a press release dated December 5, 2020 said the dismissal was ‘mutually agreed’. While the said press release did not state reasons for the ‘mutual agreement’, it had been reported the CEO had mishandled the U17 national team through what is known as the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test scandal or simply age-cheating.  That press release stated that ‘BFA President Mclean Letshwiti said they will begin advertising for a new CEO immediately through a rigorous recruitment process’. The second issue is the pardon and reinstatement of boRre Setete Phuthego and Tebogo Kamati as reported in the Sunday Standard edition dated February 19-25, 2023 under the headline ‘Kamati, Setete pardoned and reinstated’.  

Rre Mfolo would later re-emerge at the Association around March 2022 by occupying the same position he was dismissed from. I have not been able to ascertain whether or not he was subjected to the ‘rigorous recruitment process’ referred to in the press release. That notwithstanding, the fact that he was accused of having not properly managed the MRI process with the result that the national U17 national team had to be disqualified from participating in the COSAFA U17 finals in South Africa is in my view an unpardonable dereliction of duty tantamount to what I would term football treason. While it is said the Association’s Constitution empowers its President to head-hunt the CEO, it begs the question why Rre Mfolo was dismissed in the first place. Were we taken for granted in order to sweep the matter under the carpet? Was the infraction not so egregious that it warranted his ‘permanent disbarment’ from holding a position in the Association and football in general given the huge embarrassment the country suffered in the eyes of the footballing nations? Botswana has gone into the annals of history of those nations who cheat in order to participate in international youth tournament.

According to the Sunday Standard edition referred to above, Rre Setete Phuthego and Rre Tebogo Kamati were ‘suspended by BFA NEC over the allegations that they tempered with the FIFA connect systems to register one Omkarabile Ratanang of Township Rollers. Phuthego’s suspension was indefinite while Kamati was suspended pending disciplinary action….On Wednesday during the NEC meeting the football governing board resolved to unconditionally pardon the two for the wrongs they were alleged to have committed. The two have never been subjected to any BFA punitive committees to answer for the charges they faced’.   The Association’s Constitution provides at Article 56.1 for four judicial bodies being the Disciplinary Committee, Ethics Committee, Arbitration Tribunal and the Appeals Committee. Over and above these judicial bodies, there are other structures whose functions are issue based like the Players Status Committee.  Media reports indicate the two were suspended around mid-2022. At the time, Rre Phuthego held the position of Competitions Manager of the Association while Rre Kamati was a member of the NEC. Article 58.2 of the Association Disciplinary Committee provides that ‘The Disciplinary Committee may pronounce the sanctions described in this Constitution and the Disciplinary Code of BFA on members, officials, players,clubs and match and players’ agents’. (Underlining mine for emphasis). Types of sanctions the Disciplinary Committee could impose on offenders are listed as a warning, reprimand, a fine and so on.  The Association’s Constitution provides for appeal processes in terms of the Appeals Committee and others listed therein. All in all, the Association’s Constitution is fully empowered to deal with almost all manner of misconduct by all individuals and entities associated with the Association.

Given the seriousness of the misconducts Rre Phuthego and Rre Kamati faced on the version of the Association, it would have required the BFA to trigger the appropriate structures provided for in its Constitution in order to establish whether or not the two violated such Constitution and if subsequently it is established that indeed violation did occur, appropriate sanctions passed. End of the story unless an appeal is launched.

It was un-cumbersome in my view for the Association to have established whether or not Rre Phuthego facilitated the alleged registration of the Township Rollers player after the expiry of the registration period. The same should go for Rre Kamati where the Association would have easily in my view,  established whether or not he, according to the Sunday Standard report, had ‘shared some confidential information with intention to assist Rollers to have enough ammunition to defend their case against BFA’. 

My gripe with how the Association handled the matters of the two gentlemen at the centre of this conversation is how on the face of it, its Constitution seemingly, was not followed to the letter. The fact that there are well spelt out provisions to effectively and efficiently deal with whatever situation is materially enough to have promptly dealt with them. It could be that the infractions levelled against them were committed with the knowledge and concurrence of the powers that be hence the difficulty of ensuring proper disciplinary measures are instituted lest the powers that be are also implicated  and exposed. It is reasonable to suggest the BFA is riddled with its own fair share of internal politics where some form of victimisation of sorts is meted on those who may not be toeing the line of the powers that be. Football politics is well documented the world over and it will be insanity of epic proportions to suggest BFA is insulated from it. FIFA and CAF are themselves football structures where football politics comes to the fore. High profile positions of leadership are accessed through a political process of lobbying which ultimately leads to elections. To be fair to the BFA however, is to mention that it is not the only body corporate caught by the bug of bad internal governance mechanisms where goal posts are often shifted when it suits those in control. It would appear to me that the cases of Rre Mfolo on being shifted aside for his matter to cool off to later return and the two gentlemen for not seemingly going through the disciplinary process to establish the veracity of allegations against them.

In the end, I argue very strongly that internal governance mechanisms are in many instances at the centre of the BFA being in the news for the wrong reasons and therefore rendering it to be some joke as do other corporate bodies of the same stature. In the process, the immediate consequence is that football development at all levels becomes a victim of avoidable gentlemen’s agreements. Would-be sponsors grow cold feet to come on board in fear that their money and their names would be associated with the internal politics at the Association occasioned by the poor governance mechanisms. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!

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