BGSport: You recently resigned from your position as Chairman of the Botswana National Sports Commission. Can you share some of the highlights of your journey at the Commission?
Solly: I took the position at a very young age and back then I did not have the experience I now obviously have. When you are young, you make so many mistakes because you are ambitious. There are so many things you want to achieve and so many things you want to do. You tend to think things are easy when they are not.
BGSport: What were some of the immediate challenges you faced when you took over as BNSC Chairperson?
Solly: When I took over the Commission there was a very big feud between the Botswana National Sports Commission and the Botswana National Olympic Committee. I came in 2011 and found out that the long running feud was a territorial turf war. After my arrival the feud carried on for some time, I did not manage to stop it immediately. Over time we were able to engage in talk to the point where we ended up reviewing the BNSC Act and found a way to co-exist. After some time, there was cordial relations and we came up with separation of duties and eventually signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations.
BGSport: What are the changes you made upon arrival at the BNSC?
Solly: After dealing with the protracted feud with the BNOC, we focused on restructuring the BNSC. When I came in the BNSC was a huge organisation with so many people, a lot of resources and there was so much money being used in the secretariat than on the actual sports programmes, so I did the restructuring exercise and made it a fit for purpose organisation. I recruited Percy Raditladi from the corporate sector and he came in and went right into business as he was a private sector guy. At the time I was happy that someone like him came in and restructured the organisation. We were now able to be liquid and paid salaries as well as sports programmes.
BGSport: What are some of your career highlights as BNSC chairman?
Solly: One of our major successes was qualifying for the 2012 Afcon finals which was a big thing and the first time in the history of the country. Those young people did well. They were knocked out of the preliminaries but they did well and put up a good fight. A lot of things changed back then as it was not just about playing sports. The Zebras were the only team wearing an African kit, All Kasi kit that was made in Botswana. All Kasi was the brand that people were wearing at the time. Our industry was able to make quality products. This led to other brands like Dlala being born and growing to where they are.
The other thing that I am very proud of is that the same year in 2012 we got a silver medal at the Olympics, getting a silver medal at the Olympics was not a small thing. That was a great thing, the country got united and everybody was happy and then Botswana started becoming number one in athletics especially in the middle distance where we witnessed the likes of Isaac Makwala and Amantle Montsho becoming world champions in 2014. They became millionaires. Even softball we had the best pitcher in the world. It’s not easy to compete with Americans and Japanese. One thing I was involved in and directly pursued was chess, I made it my project; We started having Grand Masters and I took chess under my wing. It doesn’t pull a lot of resources and it was easy for chess to find sponsors and venues.
BGSport: What policies and reforms did you come up with during your tenure?
Solly: We came with a lot of policies and programs and one of the programmes is the BNSC Hall of Fame as veteran sports people were forgotten. That was a great thing. We introduced salaries for national teams starting with volleyball and football. People did not like this at first but eventually, it was working but it was later scrapped of which I never understood and disagreed to. This initiative saw national team players earning a salary whether there was a tournament or not. This meant national team members would have to work hard because they did not want to lose the salary.
BGSport: The BNSC hosted an impressive number of international sport events in a space of five years. How instrumental were you in luring international sporting organisations to Botswana?
Solly: The one international event I played a pivotal role in was the hosting of the International Working Group (IWG) and the WSBC which were hosted in Gaborone. I was also involved in the hosting of the 2014 Africa Youth Games where I was Vice President of Operations, which meant everything that involved sports was under my role, that’s why I ended up moving games from BNOC to BNSC and we delivered excellent games. Another thing that we managed to do was to acquire land from the city council and town councils. The land is zoned for sports and we have land in Kanye, Oodi, Maun and Letlhakane. One of the things I leave, having signed a deal is the High-Performance centre at BFA, I worked with Botswana Football Association president Maclean Letshwiti to get it done. The other project that I signed off is the golf development, this one will be massive, it has hotels, offices, private property, golf course. It is a resort and it is designed to raise money for golf. The golf course will be able to host major games.
BGSport: You are well known for being a former karate athlete. What is your take on the current state of the Botswana Karate Association?
Solly: Before we came in, karate was given a P500 000 grant, but when we came in, they were given P1,2 million and it was a good way for them to be self-sustaining. We made sure they hosted tournaments. As you know there was leadership crisis including coups. The current leaders are not able to work together. They are the most talented sports code in the country. We are going to the Olympic games and Karate can be able to get a medal there. The problem we are having is that the heads of the different styles are not able to work together. So, everyone is protecting their style. They have to make a decision to say no more new styles and then they will win.
BGSport: What are the biggest challenges the BNSC is facing currently? Are there any solutions?
Solly: The biggest problem facing our sport over and above funding is the over reliance on volunteerism. This thing is killing our sport. It is very hard to hold volunteers accountable; they have passion and use the little time and resources they have. What I feel we should move towards at least for Vision 2028 is to have a secretariat for at least five major sporting codes. One other thing that I know I will be unpopular with but I don’t think I have a problem, we cannot manage 43 sporting codes with the same blanket and broom. We get P70 million from government and disburse it to 43 codes, that thing doesn’t work, it’s like running a social programme. We must make a hard decision to pick five sporting codes we can work on and let others work towards letting others to get there. If we get P70 million, we can get P40 million to the five and P30 million to assist the rest. The manner in which we give out individual P1 million grants to everyone has led to some codes not pushing as much as they need to while others end up returning most of the money. Look at cricket, they try a lot, they are serious about the development of sport. Athletics and football have competitive advantage as schools are dedicated to them.
BGSport: May you shed light on the recent transition from Council to Commission?
Solly: With the BNSC commercialisation from council to commission, we have not moved an inch as everyone is still reliant on government. Transition from council to commission is very blurry, it is just the same…. business as usual. Commission said we are a regulator not an implementor but it is still running the development programmes like Re ba bona ha. Commercialisation was meant to have sporting codes operating on their own. We are not supposed to be running things like Botswana Games. That thing doesn’t work, I think we need to review the BURS Act. There must be a tax reform. On the other hand , the Gambling Act must get its act together, it’s too late its 50 years later and there is no benefit. The trivias have been stopped because the Gambling Authority is still setting up regulations. These trivias were important in raising money for sports especially in football. In the UK, gambling is the biggest thing and government is not spending money in sports. There are horse races where people bet instead of watching a race for entertainment only.
BGSport: Do you have any regrets?
Solly: There are so many regrets, it is the kids we lose through the cracks at form 3 and form 5. You may know someone who was very talented at school but they fell off after failing at form three or five. Another thing is that we have failed dismally in decentralisation and everything is done in Gaborone so you can’t do development within a centralized system. The other thing I should have done is to disband the national team and play national league. And set up a group of 10 or 12-year-old put them together and plan four years from now. We should put our resources there and get a coach and have them grow together, right now we just go to the stadium to break our hearts. Freeze it and have a 15-year-old team and have them playing international friendless. Another thing is procurement, we have local products like Dlala and All Kasi we could have focused on.Nevertheless I am not lost to sports, I sit in international bodies. I am also planning to run programmes for young people, like an academy but at a personal level.
BGSport: Do you have any ambitions of joining politics and ultimately become sports minister one day?
Solly: I am going to join politics someday. I think the next general elections I am going to be involved. Sports is my passion I never felt at home doing anything else. I hated people who stopped me from going to karate with a passion. I would die to be a sport minister. It’s something that at some point in my life I would like to do. God willing very soon I will be taking up that post. We have a new president so I would like to make him shine. I have also been the chairman of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC), so I have the youth element as well. I resigned before my term concluded but I am in a happy space, I just don’t like some stories going around at the moment.
Japanese softball team from Chyukyo University is currently in Botswana. The team is made up of 13 female players and will be in Botswana for a whole month.
The team is expected to share their softball expertise in different parts of Botswana such as Good Hope, Masunga, Maun and Gaborone. This is done as per the agreement between Botswana and the Japanese government to work together in a project called Official Development Assistance (ODA) facilitated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Speaking at a briefing held in Gaborone this week, the newly appointed Resident Representative of JICA Ken Yamada said, “This project of Softball Technical Exchange Program between our volunteers from Chyukyo University, Japan, and Botswana Softball Association (BSA) was agreed to run for three years and now we are on our second year.
Furthermore, the University softball team we brought here is a powerhouse in Japan hence Botswana will benefit immensely in their visit to different Botswana locations as they will be imparting their esteemed knowledge of the sport, being softball.”
JICA’s volunteer programs support activities of Japanese citizens who wish to cooperate in the economic and social development as well as the reconstruction of developing countries.
Furthermore, 14 Volunteers are currently working in Botswana in various fields ranging from sports, social welfare, to auto mechanics, IT and graphic design and others.In his address, BSA President Thabo Thamane said this endeavour is a great initiative as the country is bound to reap fruits, “This is really exulting as a lot of outcomes are expected in this venture; exchange of culture between Japanese and the locals will be an epic thing to happen and surely the softball fraternity will benefit greatly as well,” he said.
For his part, Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Board member and also Botswana National Olympic Commission (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tuelo Serufho expressed his gratitude to the Japanese who took liberty to work with the local government.
“I would like to extend my profound gratitude to Japanese government for embarking on this journey with us, and surely this will be of great help to the country and this relationship is really important hence the need to be safeguarded,” said Serufho.
Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Chairman Solly Reikeletseng is a man on a mission. The BNSC boss is currently busy trying to address the thorny issues of insufficient sponsorships plaguing the local sports industry in Botswana.
Speaking in an interview recently, a determined Reikeletseng said there is need for a policy that will dictate terms for corporate businesses to invest in Sport. “One of the ways to do it is to say, within the profits that companies make a certain percentage of that must be poured towards the pool of sports,” Reikeletseng said.
“A percentage of the income tax and the company tax must be put aside for sports, performing arts and culture, which will ensure that we develop the creative arts. Reikeletseng further mentioned that resources are limited in sports and the P56 million they receive from the annual budget through the Ministry of Youth Empowerment Sports and Culture Development is not enough to sustain local sport and consequently more money needs to be injected into Sports.
“You find that there are European and South African companies in Botswana who only invest in their own countries but they will not invest anything in our country while we actually ensure that they are profitable. All these companies should be guided by a policy to take a fraction of their earnings and invest into sport.”
Moreover the BNSC boss said there is need to develop policies in order to achieve these goals. “The act of the BNSC must empower us to come up with more policies, we have to lobby the private sector, the government and all the influential groups so that we can get those policies approved, we are currently pushing the government to ensure that all is realized.” Sport in Botswana is currently struggling with sponsorships currently misplaced from most of the sporting activities, sporting codes are now caught wanting with sponsors nowhere to be seen.
Sporting codes like Volleyball, football, Table Tennis, Boxing, Tennis and Cricket have been wallowing in uncertainty with several sponsors turning away from them. A lot of these codes have been left in the dark with limited activities since the vanishing of sponsors like water evaporating from a boiling pot. Football spectators have missed the Football Association (FA) Cup for five years since their long time sponsors Coca Cola turned their back on them, the last time the tournament was played was in 2012 when the national football team the Zebras qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time in history.Football pundits may argue that the demise of this tournament forms part of the dust that has been neighboring the national team, as the team has dismally failed to produce viable results since the 2012 AFCON showpiece.
Nonetheless Volleyball has also experienced similar fate after their darling sponsor Mascom Wireless took a turn away from their direction, the volleyball fraternity has faced a drought season with only the BMW Capital Motors being the only tournament to be staged this year.
With teams like Police VI (Men) and Kalavango (Women) expected to play in the Zone 6 championships in December it is obvious that the fitness of the players will be up for questions with lack of volleyball activities having been limited this year.
The 37th Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Annual Sports Awards nominees were announced in Gaborone this week.
Addressing members of the media and stakeholders this week, the BNSC chairman Solly Reikeletseng said the glitzy and glamour award ceremony scheduled for Gaborone will be held in two weeks time. The sports person of the year category is arguably one of the biggest awards of the glamorous night. The nominees include 800m runner Nijel Amos, African Karate champion Ofentse Bakwadi and chess player Thuso Mosutha. However Amos’ year has been riddled with injuries and disappointments.
The 800m runner does not have much to write home about since winning Botswana’s only Olympic medal. Another sports person of the year nominee being, Thuso Mosutha surprised everyone last year after unseating Providence Oatlhotse to book himself a place at the 2016 World Chess Olympiad in Baku, where he qualified as a Candidate Master.
Botswana’s karate sensation Ofentse Bakwadi comes as favourite to scoop the 2017 sports man of the year award following a stellar year at the international stage. Bakwadi brought home two gold medals from the World Championships in Australia. Bakwadi has also made it into the World Karate Federation rankings after brilliant performances in international stages like Dubai in the UAE.
Meanwhile local sports enthusiasts will be surprised to learn that world 200m and 400m runner Isaac Makwala does not feature in the Sports person of the year nomination list. The award has been eluding Makwala over the past few years due to inconsistencies. The key interest at the awards usually is the sports person of the year who happens to be the overall winner. The sports person is usually contested by the sports man and the sports woman of the year. Junior Female Sports Person of the year usually attracts athletes from the Botswana Chess Federation, Botswana Tennis Association and athletics. BCF hosts more youth competitions than most other codes. Besa Masaiti is not a surprise in this category though she did not win anything internationally even though she improved her FIDE ranking.
Tennis protégé Tshegofatso Tsiang who is based at a high performance centre in South Africa is another candidate even though her achievements at the international stage are a bit vague. Another dark horse in the junior women’s category is Galefele Moroko who rose to prominence as one of the few promising athletes at BISA competitions a few years ago. However, the young athlete has also not won any major competition.
The junior male sports person of the year is the only category contested by athletes who competed at the Olympics. Gavin Mogopa is the first Judoka to represent Botswana at the Olympics last year in Rio even though he made it as far as preliminary stages. Karate happens to be one of the most consistent sport codes and thus far and Thabang Setshego comes as no surprise.
Setshego will be a favourite to walk away with the award. Another likely winner is Karabo Sibanda who managed to beat teammate Baboloki Thebe for the nomination. Sibanda’s record at junior and senior level is impressive after finishing 5th in 400m at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Sibanda was ranked 2nd fastest Junior 400m in the world in 2016. The sport code of the year is one of the toughest competitions with Botswana Cricket Association (BCA), Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) and Botswana Athletics Association (BAA). BCA has one of the best strategies in the land. BCF is one of the few codes to have retained sponsors over the years while the BAA remains one of the high performing codes in the field of play even though administratively it leaves a lot to be desired. The coach of the year category nominees is Peter Molefhe (Karate), Mogomotsi Otsetswe (Athletics) and Thebe Setlalekgosi (Boxing). The umpire/referee of the year nominees are Edgar Serole (volleyball). Joshua Bondo continues to fly the flag on behalf of the poor performing football team. Gaone Poane of tennis is also nominated. The contest is possibly between Serole and Bondo. The group code of the year pits BOTESSA against BOPSSA. The awards organiser included the category for athletes living with disability since last year. Kedumetse John - Special Olympics and Goitseone Ramontshonyane - Special Olympics contest for this category.
The male sport person with disability Keatlaretse Mabote of PASSOBO and Brightfield Shadi from Special Olympics
The Botswana Amateur Fencing Society (BAFS) is currently in a state of crisis as two opposing forces are fighting for control of the fairly new association. The sport of fencing rose to prominence during the 2014 Africa Youth games held in Gaborone. Politics within the local fencing body threatens to reverse the gains and mileage the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) affiliate has made recently. The combat sport traces its roots to the development of swordsmanship with emphasis on duelling and self-defence. Fencing happens to be one of the oldest Olympic sports.
BAFS constitution provides that 50 percent of members may call a special general assembly, when the committee fails to heed to calls of affiliates. The affiliates convened a meeting on the 28 July and resolved to table a motion of no confidence on their executive committee. BG Sport is reliably informed that the both BNSC and the opposing forces have reached a point where they communicate through the lawyers. BG Sport is in possession of a letter from BNSC instructing both groups to, “desist from holding any further meetings meant for any elections of the purported new committee until an inquiry into the matter has been completed.” The letter from BNSC is dated 3rd August 2017. “Our clients are fully paid up bona fide members of the BAFS with full membership rights in terms of the constitution. It is worth noting that the deposed Executive Committee are members of the clubs that have defaulted in membership subscription payments and are therefore members of the BAFS in accordance with its constitution,” reads a letter from Ramalepa attorneys addressed to BNSC CEO dated 1st August 2017. The other force in the battle for BAFS is led by Mandela Masuku who recently defeated Mudongo at the BAFS elective general assembly. Masuku’s committee comprises vice president Matla Basha, Secretary General Letlhogonolo Ramosesane, technical director Samuel Chape,and Treasurer Koketso Masena. The Gaolatwe Mudongo group was recently voted into office after BAFS affiliate clubs decided to table a motion of no confidence on the then committee led by Masuku in absentia. Mudongo was BAFS president from 2014 to 2017 when little known Masuku staged mutiny at the assembly. The Mudongo led team comprises Themba Mgurunyoka as vice president, Tebogo Mokwena as treasurer, Special Ramatudung as Secretary General, Jimmy Lekhutlile as technical director, Master Tobedza, Tlhabologo Nageng and Warona Lekoko as additional members.
BNSC chairman Solly Reikeletseng said he is aware of the fencing battles. “We know their challenges and we have engaged legal advisor to interpret their constitution and our act”, explained BNSC chairman. Reikeletseng cautioned that the energy should be directed towards preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Reikeletseng said that they are democratically trying to engage the warring parties to settle their matters on their own. “What is happening at BAFS is unacceptable, they are a growing sport in the country, they do not have many or complicated development structures, they have fewer clubs, actually they are at an infancy stage. There is no need for leadership to fight”, cautioned Reikeletseng.
The Chairman of Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Solly Reikeletseng this week said he fully supports Botswana Football Association (BFA)’s recent decision of withdrawing the U-20 Women’s football team from the ongoing 2018 FIFA U-20 Women World Cup Qualifiers.
The BFA last week issued a press statement announcing the unfortunate withdrawal of the women’s team due to financial constraints. This means Botswana will not be able to honour their second leg of the World Cup Qualifiers preliminary round scheduled for Kenya this coming weekend. The local U-20 team recently suffered a crushing 1-7 defeat against Kenya in Lobatse.
While the sudden decision by BFA might have been another leap towards the slow and painful death of women football in the country, Reikeletseng begged to differ when speaking to BG Sport in an interview earlier this week.
“BFA did well, it was a good move in my view, we cannot afford to be mere participants, we have to send a team that will participate and represent us well,” an adamant Reikeletseng said. The BNSC chairman is of the view that the team had not prepared well and it would have been wastage of resources to go ahead with the games despite the pressing issue of the team‘s unpreparedness at hand.
He strongly advised that the matter was not about gender in sport, but bringing out results, saying that currently there is no women’s league running and that on its own was a massive drawback for women football.
However Reikeletseng advised BFA to retrace and try to empower women through the aid of constituency leagues while trying to source funds for the league.
On the other hand, the matter has since opened up old wounds and stirred up mixed reactions from the local football community, who feel that the mother body is not doing enough to rescue women football and while BFA continues to casually watch the girl child disappear in local sports circles, women football remains in its death bed.
“I wonder if BFA was not aware of their financial struggle before the start of the qualifiers. Why would they play the first leg only to cancel the next stage in a few days?” International Working Group on Women and Sport Secretary General Game Mothibi asked rhetorically in an interview this week
Mothibi heavily criticised BFA’s planning structure, saying it is high time they take women structures seriously and plan for both men and female teams in a balanced manner. Moreover, the U-20 national team Coach Jacqueline Gaobinelwe did not hide her feelings on the matter. She shared her disappointments with BG Sport this week about how BFA went about withdrawing the team from the World qualifiers.
According to her, BFA CEO Ookeditse Malesu and one representative from the women desk office Barobi Ngwako summoned her on Thursday last week and broke the news to her.
Despite their lengthy discussion on how best to tackle the situation, Coach Gaobinelwe said they failed to reach a less painful solution to the matter. She also argued that it soon became evident that BFA had long made the decision on the matter before they consulted them as the concerned party.
“They pressed hard on the issue that there is no money, so we will not be able to return our second leg against Kenya. However the team manager and myself overheard the CEO’s conversation where he was being advised that CAF instructed the BFA to inform FIFA about their decision.
The letter had already been drafted and was there right before our eyes, I feel that as women, we are oppressed in football, BFA did not do enough for the team and they have hurt our players' feelings,” lamented the coach.
As if that was not enough, Gaobinelwe was further left bleeding when BFA took the matter to the public before officially addressing athletes about the matter. “I was shocked to hear the BFA spokesperson Tumo Mpatane confidently addressing the local media on the matter.” Upon realising that she could not contain the heat of the matter, nor convince the BFA leadership to go back on their decision, Gaobinelwe and her technical team took the matter to President Ian Khama’s on Saturday evening.However their efforts did not bear any fruits as they were redirected to BFA and instructed to resolve their issues amicably.
She is greatly disturbed by the fact that the same youth team was greatly disappointed last year after being denied a chance to compete at Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 championships with insufficient funds being provided as the reason.
“BFA only uses us when it benefits them, when things take a different twist, they dump us, women are not taken seriously by the football leadership,” charged Coach Oaitse Moeti of Mexican girls women football Club.
Moeti said he is gravely concerned that BFA is not rising up to the troubling situation of having no active women’s football at the moment. He argued that killing the youth national team was a heavy blow.
The team is said to have been in camp only two weeks before their humiliating game against Kenya but expected to excel come match day. “BFA should be seeking solutions; we cannot be crying about lack of funds year in and out, something has to be done.”
The Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) may be the first casualty of the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) budget curb. The BNSC recently confirmed that its budget from the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development is constrained. This week the BoBA president Thato Patlakwe confirmed that for the first time ever, Botswana will not be represented at this year’s 2017 Zone 4 Competitions to be held in Angola next month.
Botswana boxing team, also regional champions of the 2016 Zone 4 competitions were forced to pull out of the race due to lack of funds. Patlakwe told this publication in a brief interview this week that Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) wrote a letter to BoBA this month, informing them that the commission is currently financially constrained.
He said BNSC told them that it has not yet received funding from the ministry and is currently in an impossible situation of not being able to assist sport codes with funding. “There is nothing we can do, we all rely on the government to assist us and if they tell us that their coffers are currently dry, we have to accept,” conceded Patlakwe.
He explained that they are least worried because Botswana is currently the powerhouse of the Zone 4 competitions and he is confident that the team was going to defend the championship title. BoBA has since drawn a new programme to start focusing on the Africa Championships to be held in Congo from May 25 to June 6, 2017. Patlakwe explained that they will be going into extensive training programme and hopefully have an international training camp before the championships.
Ahead of the World Championships scheduled for August, he said BoBA wants to secure medals at the World Championships and strongly assured that they will make their presence felt.
Reached for comment, BoBA Sports Development Officer Healer Modiradilo expressed disappointment at the turn of events. “This will affect us badly, it is through the Zone 4 competitions that we get to check athletes’ performances and we use it as base to identify athletes who will represent the country at the Africa and world Championships,” he said.
However, he was quick to note that they shall utilise the available period to put together a formidable team that will effectively compete at the Africa Championships. This will be the first time that Botswana Boxing team fails to compete at the Zone 4 Championships.
Team Botswana has always done well in the tournament with sensational Zibani Chikanda scooping the honour of best boxer of the tournament last year. In a recent interview with Guardian Sports, BNSC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Falcon Sedimo said that their grant from government has been cut by over P2 million and has forced them to cut funds to affiliates.
Sedimo said the government pays out the grant quarterly and each disbursement is credited after accounting for the previous quarter grant. The reduction in subvention has adversely affected different codes.
Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Boxing Clubs around the country will engage in an Inter Area (military) boxing tournament at Glen Valley military camp in Gaborone this weekend.
The tournament will be held at the Glen Valley gymnasium from the 18th until 19 August from 1400hrs till late. Tournament deputy coordinator, Larona Francis told this publication that the tournament is intended to raise the standard of combat fitness and instil team discipline amongst military sportsmen.
“High fitness level and discipline defines military personnel,” Francis said, adding that boxing combat prepares a soldier psychologically. “A military person needs to be ready to attack anytime either armed or not armed.” Francis said the event is held annually and for this year, five clubs -Thebephatswa, Francistown, Eastern Military Garrison (EMG), Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB) and Glen Valley Boxing Clubs- will be battling it out.
Thirty individual competitors are expected to grace the event among them Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) sportsperson of the year, Zibani Chikanda, sensational middleweight Keoagile Rantutu and last year’s best boxer of the tournament, the hard-hitting Lentswe Zwinila. Francis said having reputable boxers competing in the tournament elevates its standard.
He added that the tournament helps in selecting the best BDF boxing team and helps them with exposure they need when competing outside the country. Last year’s tournament was won by SSKB. “To mention a few, there are different categories to be fought over. There are also individual defending champions from last year including under 56 kg, Ronald Motswakae from SSKB, under 60kg Cornelious Sekate from SSKB, under 64Kg Kabo Seitshiro from EMG and many more all the way to under 81kg.”
The Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Sportsman of the year, Zibani Chikanda will be in action at a boxing interclub tournament in Selebi Phikwe this weekend.
Chikanda will be eager to please the fans and trade leather with his opponent at the Eastern Military Garrison (EMG). Selebi Phikwe also happens to be his home ground and the 75kg slugger will be aiming to please the crowd with a win and establish himself as middleweight kingpin. The past few years have been good to Chikanda who has been living in the shadow of popular boxers such as Oteng Oteng and the Bagwasi brothers.
Recently, Chikanda has been on a roll hauling medals from numerous international competitions like the 2015 All Africa games, Zone 4, AIBA world championships before walking away with the Sportsman of the year award. “I have not been in the ring since March when I came back from the 2016 Olympic qualifier in Cameroon. At the last interclub tournament at Glen Valley I did not have an opponent and the next tournament scheduled for Hukuntsi was cancelled,” he said.
However, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) officer said he would not have any ring rust, as he makes sure he keeps his body in fighting shape all the time. I am a senior boxer so I am always ready to compete. Chikanda said he expected to be matched up with top quality boxers at the inter club tournament on Saturday. “I expected to face the likes of Mmusi Tswiige or Lentswe Zwinila. They are not in my weight class so they have to go up in weight to face me.”
The 31 year old said he would be ready for either of his opponents, as he understands the styles and approach of both boxers. In an interview this week, BoBA spokesperson Kenny Maragana said Chikanda would be the main attraction at his home coming fight after winning the BNSC award. Chikanda has strength and endurance. His other attribute is resilience; he is also a workaholic as his opponents usually run out of steam.
“The other EMG based boxers to look out for will be the exciting super heavyweight Oteng Phatswe as his bouts with Maun’s Innocent Chombo usually pull the crowd.” There will be other big names, including Gaolathe Mpotsang (64kg), Thabang Motsewabeng, Robbie Botshelo, Motlatsi Mokobeng and the Bagwasi brothers (Kabelo and Kagiso).
This will be the 6th interclub tournament of the year. Maragana said there is likely to be six more interclub tournaments before the national championships that take place in October. “In order to qualify for the national championships a boxer must compete in at least 70 percent of interclub tournaments.” Maragana said they expected the military leadership and the area MP Dithapelo Keorapetse to attend the tournament.
As the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) goes to the annual sport awards next week, an unusual battle is expected in the Junior Female Sportsperson of the Year award category. In the typical David versus Goliath scenario, the nine-year old Naledi Marape of chess faces her elder sisters in Galefele Moroko of athletics and swimming's Naomi Ruele, both aged 19. At the age of 9, the little history maker becomes the youngest athlete to have competed in the BNSC awards since its inception.
However, concerns have been raised on the fairness for an athlete as young as Marape to be competing in the same category with seasoned teenagers who have long been in the game as in the case of both Moroko and Ruele. Another debate questions the validity of categorising a child under 10 years of age as a junior when the category has traditionally been known to serve athletes on the upper side of their teens.
Sports commentators have opined that Marape’s failure to win in this category might dent her confidence and even affect her future performances. For this reason, awards followers have called on the BNSC to consider a category that would pit the children this age together rather than have to make them compete with the tried and tested teenagers.
However, Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) president Tshenolo Maruatona seems to have no qualms with the nomination of his sport body’s developing juvenile against elderly competitors for now. He rather chose to advise that going forward, the categories be streamlined further to cater for the very young ones, arguing that it is the first time a nine year old has competed in the awards and at best therefore, lessons can be derived from this year’s nominations. "It would have been nice to see her compete against her peers but Marape is a competitive athlete who attained high ratings by even beating athletes older than her," Maruatona said.
Botswana Netball Association (BONA) president Tebogo LebotseSebego shared a different view. The woman who also serves as continental netball president said it was not only unfair but uncomfortable to have a category where the competitors’ age difference is so significant."I do not know what the solution is at this point but speaking as a mother, I am uncomfortable with a nine year competing with athletes so older than her," she said. LebotseSebego said it is time that sports leaders re-think and come up with a more inclusive award system that considers age disparity among other considerations.
Reached for comment, the BNSC’s Sports Development Director Technical Bobby Gaseitsewe agreed that in future a category for young athletes is something that could be considered just the same way that other categories that were not there in the beginning were added. "As we grow as a country these improvements will surface," he said. He however said as long as the guidelines have not been changed upcoming athletes will continue to compete with elderly ones. He said a junior athlete is anyone who is under the age of 21 and therefore according to the current awards policy, Marape is a junior.
Gaseitsewe gave the little star a pat on the back for making history and said she has a great future ahead and that even if she does not emerge victorious, she would still be a winner by just being nominated. The awards’ ceremony is scheduled for June 18 under the theme "Legends live among us."