Minister Thapelo Olopeng's asertion that government will construct 10 stadiums around the country without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not only reckless but downright dangerous.
Olopeng was answering a supplementary question from Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Mephato Reatile who had asked whether an EIA has been done for the Isaac Makwala stadium, which is one of the 10 stadiums that will be built around the country.
In his response the former Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development minister said; “For these facilities we do not need EIA. We have already consulted with the relevant ministry. So we are going to do the management plan as opposed to the EIA.”
The government position does not only raise eyebrows, but evokes memories of Serowe Integrated Sports Facility which has developed cracks because of its peculiar soil properties. Commentators say the facility was a political decision and some influential people pressurised for the quick construction on the current area without following proper procedure in order to appease Bangwato. Built at a cost of P27 million the facility developed cracks immediately after its completion, which led to many blaming the contractor whilst others blamed the politicians for insisting that the facility be built and completed as quickly as possible.
Years back, the then Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Shaw Kgathi when answering a question in Parliament cleared the company that was involved in the construction of the stadium from any wrong doing, saying that the stadium’s disintegration before it was even used was a result of the peculiar soil properties. Kgathi put the blame squarely “on communication breakdown between officers involved in the planning and the implementation phase of the project.”
He was answering a question from former MP for Chobe the late Gibson Nshimwe, adding that government has not taken any steps to recover its money as no one was found to be in the wrong because government could not find evidence of deliberate negligence or lack of due diligence on anyone’s part. Ironically Kgathi said before the construction of the stadium site investigations were carried out by the Consulting and Structural Engineers (Newton McDonald and Associates (Pty) Ltd and at least three independent expert opinions were obtained.
He said investigations resulted in two geotechnical reports dated January 1998 and February 1999. On 5th March 1999, Newton McDonald and Associates submitted their recommendations regarding the foundations designs based on geotechnical reports.
The civil/structural consultants also finalised their designs based on the input from the geotechnical reports and advised the contractor with regard to implementation of the project on site. The project commenced in 1999 and was handed over in September 2001.
Reports show that in 2005, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research was engaged and produced a technical audit report which revealed that the problems that manifested themselves on site were largely attributable to poor soil conditions, weather conditions (prior to and during construction), possible shortcomings in the sharing of information between professional disciplines in the department and between these disciplines and their consultants among others.
Kgathi further said that in 2007 a joint inspection survey of Serowe stadium was carried out to ascertain the extent of existing defects and arrive at an estimated cost of making good these defects. The inspection put the cost refurbishment at P17 029 154.45 with an annual maintenance estimate of 25 percent of that figure. The inspection concluded that while remedial work could be carried out there will always be need to attend to new defects annually depending on weather conditions in the area.
On his first attempt at the 30 kilometres Desert Bush Walk, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng was worried that such a great initiative by the youth was still struggling to get support from the private sector.
Speaking to BG Sports after completing the race, Olopeng said, “I support this walk and I will continue doing so because its proceeds are used to help the poor; it is also for educational purposes. My ministry is also responsible for sports tourism hence we have the likes of Khawa challenge and this walk attracted regional countries and has now turned to be a regional walk as we have seen walkers from Lesotho and South Africa.
I edge the private sector to support this initiative so that we could grow it from being a regional to a continental and world event.”
Olopeng walked together with his cabinet colleague and Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Madigele who settled for 15 kilometres and left early as he had other business activities to attend in his Mmathethe-Molapowabojang constituency. Both are looking forward to participate in next year’s walk which is expected to be much bigger as it will be celebrating its fifth anniversary.
The 2018 edition of the annual Desert Bush Walk-Winter is slated to take place this Saturday in Jwaneng. The event is in the fourth year running.
Preparations according to organisers are at an advanced stage. Bringing the media up to speed about preparations during a media briefing that was held on Monday morning in Gaborone, the organisers informed the media that all that they were waiting for was for the 3000 walkers from Botswana and neighbouring countries to arrive in Jwaneng.
Two cabinet ministers, Thapelo Olopeng of Youth, Sports and Culture Development and Alfred Madigele of Health and Wellness will grace the walk alongside other walkers. This year, the guest walker will be the Lesotho Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sport and Culture, T Seoka. The organisers had targeted 2500 walkers (1800 for 30 KM and 700 for 15KM), and the target has been reached.
Speaking during the media briefing, Board Chairperson, Archibald Ngakayagae explained that every year both the local organizing committee and the board take part in a process of evaluation. This, he says, is done in order to note the challenges and come with interventions to all issues raised during the process. The 2017 evaluation process has seen a couple of changes and developments within the event such as the changes in the route. The 10KM walk has been increased to 15KM, following feedback from participants.
The other change has been the reduction of refreshment points from the intervals of 5KM to 10KM.
“This means that for the 15KM category, we are only going to have 1 water point at 10KM while on 30KM category we are going to have water points at 10KM, 20KM, and a mini refill at 25KM,” he explained noting that they wanted to curb the problem of littering.
He also explained that this year they would provide dustbins at the water points and have requested the Jwaneng Town Council to assist with litter picking along the route.
Another change worth noting, he says is the fact that the two categories will start at different times. The 30km walkers will depart at 0640HRS, while the 15KM will start at 0650HRS. “This is in order to reduce congestion at the starting point,” says Ngakayagae.
Ngakagae also revealed that they have finally been recognized as one of Botswana’s national events, and were added to the national list of events by Botswana Tourism Organisation.
However, every year, the committee continues to face a number of challenges, and these include lack of buy in and support from local authorities including beneficiaries.
Other challenges include shortages of resources during the build up to the event, during the walk and after the event. “These resources include lack of rescue motor vehicles, and personnel, vehicles to use to run errands, shortage of facilities and manpower. We are still appealing to partners on the matter to assist,” he says.
Organisers are also struggling with the registration of participants. In future, Ngakayagae explains that they hope to develop/purchase an online registration software.
Sponsors for 2018 include Mokala lodge, MRI, Patmo Transport, Liberty Life, Botswana Savings Bank, BTCL, BAMB, Letshego, Botswana Guardian, Sunday Standard, Carly Clothing, Duma Fm, Botswana Oil, Puma Energy, Majwe Mining, Masteka Printing, Pick n Pay (Jwaneng), webtickets, Engen Lobatse, NT4 Engineering, as well as Davebouy Worx.
Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYSC) Thapelo Olopeng, has promised that the Miss Botswana pageant 2017 service providers will be paid.
However, it appears that this is reference to just two out of 11 unpaid service providers. Those expected to be paid were engaged directly by his ministry, while the Botswana Council of Women (BCW) engaged the others. The two service providers expected to be paid are designers Kaone Moremong of House of Kay and of Botocy fashion label.
The two were engaged to make the whole wardrobe for the Miss Botswana pageant. In an interview, Moremong expressed confidence that their payment would finally come through. “The minister has promised to settle the payment and we will wait and see because government payment takes 20-40 days to clear,” she said.
Moremong however distanced herself from BCW, saying that she was directly engaged by MYSC. She said they had developed a working relationship with MYSC and communicated often with director of youth at the ministry, Lawrence Ookeditse, but things changed when payment was due last year.
“We were taken from pillar to post. We made calls, wrote letters and went to the office,” she said. Moremong noted that they were not aware of Ookeditse’s resignation, and had only heard about it from the media.
“We went to the MYSC offices on January 3 and were informed that Ookeditse would be in office on January 8. We knew nothing about his resignation. All we are concerned with is getting our dues.” Ookeditse is believed to be preparing to join politics.
In his statement, Minister Olopeng noted that he had consulted with his Permanent Secretary and that those with letters authorising them to do work for Miss Botswana would have their invoices settled. He also said that the issue of the Ministry authorising them would be dealt with internally.
He said those who were engaged by BCW should deal with the body and not MYSC. He also noted that they would meet with BCW to decide the future of their relationship.
A service provider that spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said it was unfair that they were excluded and told to deal with BCW when the organisation was working with MYSC. “When we were initially engaged our understanding was that BCW would get their funding from MYSC.
“When payment was due, we were told that MYSC had not released funds. We kept following BCW team around until we eventually decided to go to MYSC. They (MYSC) said that they had given BCW the funds to pay us. However, when we went to them, they insisted that they had not received the monies,” the source explained.
The source said that they had engaged Kago Ramokate, who asked them to submit their letters of engagement and invoices. “This year we were told that he was on leave and would only return to office mid January, so we are still waiting.” The source said that on Tuesday they were called by a certain Mr Mongwaketse, who promised that the ministry would refer to letters submitted to BCW and MYSC and follow up on the matter.
“But he did not mention anything about payment.” The source expressed disgruntlement that there was mismanagement and disorganisation.
“When MYSC partnered with BCW, they said they wanted to clean up the image of the pageant. We expected MYSC to also deal with us since both parties were working together. It is unfair that we are excluded from the settlement although we also worked on the pageant.”
A meeting was expected to be held by BCW last night. Meanwhile, attempts to speak to BCW hit a snag. Efforts to speak to Ookeditse also failed as his phone rang unanswered.
The Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng has challenged the youth to utilise programmes that are offered by both Government and the private sector to uplift themselves.
He said this during the Barclays Bank Botswana Prosper Film launch in Gaborone, where he noted that programmes such as the Youth Development Fund are meant for young people to access start-up capital to go into business.
“While we are not suggesting that everyone is a business person, we believe such programmes, with the availability of mentorship, can help young people to become economically active and successful business people. There is a gap in the YDF dispensation such as the mentorship programme.
“I therefore encourage the private sector to partner with my Ministry to provide or support a mentorship programme for young people before and after funding so they run successful businesses,” said Olopeng.
Through its other supportive initiatives, Barclays Botswana has over the years achieved 85 percent colleague participation rate in Botswana. And because the colleagues volunteered their time and skills, it has reached well over 12, 000 children and youth across Botswana since 2015.
According to the bank’s Managing Director, Reinette van de Merwe, the majority of youths were engaged in skills development sessions including financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills development programmes lectured by Barclays Bank colleagues.
“We have a variety of other skills development opportunities which we have introduced in Botswana over the years including our Rising Eagles graduate programme.
“This programme allows graduates in Botswana to challenge the conventional and share their innovative ideas with some of the best minds in the financial services sector,” she said.
The Bank also prides itself with Madi Majwana production, which was its first entry into the creative arts sector. The story of Madi Majwana is one of the creative innovations between Barclays Bank of Botswana and Maitisong Theatre.
Through this partnership, the bank is able to teach communities across Botswana practical lessons on financial literacy using examples from daily lifestyles of Batswana. This theatrical series broadcasts across all Botswana radio stations, targeting youths between the ages of 10-35 years.
Madi Majwana is a proudly indigenous production engaging local artists to tell the wonderful, simple and empowering financial Stories from Your Pocket. Youth are part-and-parcel of the entire production process including script writing and implementation.
Olopeng said that government alone cannot achieve holistic empowerment of the young people without the private sector and other players.
“My ministry will not tire in its efforts to call out to the private sector to partner with Government to change the lives of young people. I believe this partnership should make an impact in the lives of these young people because they are the future,” he noted.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Thapelo Olopeng has called on Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) and all other stakeholders to start preparing for the 2018 Commonwealth games scheduled for Australia.
Olopeng was speaking during the Team Botswana welcome ceremony in Gaborone earlier this week. Team Botswana arrived back home from the IAAF World championships in London on Tuesday afternoon where they failed to secure a single medal from the international showpiece.
Despite the controversy that surrounded the team in London, Olopeng advised that all should be forgotten and all the energy should be diverted to ensuring that the team is ready to compete in Australia next year. The minister assured that the government and his ministry will be up on their toes to ensure that the athletes receive all the necessary assistance to see Botswana rise to the top. “We have to first act professionally if we want to see the results, we should start preparing as early as now,” the minister said.
Olopeng further gave the athletes a pat on the back for representing the country well despite the emotional turmoil they had to endure while thousands of miles away from home. He urged Team Botswana not to be discouraged but rather soldier on. On behalf of the team, 400m runner Onkabetse Nkobolo said they prepared well ahead of the event in Cardiff before proceeding to the world championships. He explained that during the Makwala controversy, they were forced to stick together and lean on each other’s shoulders. “It was a difficult time for us, our hearts were bleeding nevertheless I urge you all that we bury the hatchet and focus on the future, as we leave this place today let us think about the Commonwealth games,” Nkobolo said.
The young athlete also pleaded with Batswana to stop criticizing them whenever they fail to reach their expectations, as they need a strong support system in order to prevail under difficult circumstances.He congratulated the ladies relay team, noting that they outdid themselves and in the process silenced critics. “Many, including myself had little confidence in our women’s team but they reached the finals and we failed,” he said.
The Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng has announced that ‘BOT50 Friday’ will now change to ‘BOT50 month’ as from 1st September.
Addressing a ceremony that kick-started the 50 days count down to the Golden Jubilee independence day celebrations in Gaborone recently, Olopeng said Batswana will be expected to wear National Colours every day for the month of September. The minister explained that this would show that the time Batswana have been waiting for has arrived.
“Let me advise that this is an encouragement for Batswana to wear any combination of the National Colours with Botswana Blue being the dominant colour,” said Olopeng. “During September, we will have 100% local music played on all public and private radio stations in this country. This is in recognition of our own capacity and talent as a nation.” Moreover, Olopeng said his ministry has also taken deliberate decision to engage 100% local artists for all the BOT50 music shows including those to be hosted by the different districts.
“On 25th September, Church Services will be held across the country with the Gaborone Service held at the National Stadium. On the 29th September, Independence Eve activities will be held across the Districts headquarters with the main event in Gaborone at the National Stadium.”
Moreover, the Minister said on 30th September the main celebrations will be held at all Dikgotla across the country with the National Celebrations held at the National Stadium in Gaborone. Olopeng added that National Celebrations would also be marked by the arrival of the Roving Torch and charting of a new path with the launch of the new vision beyond 2016 by President Dr Ian Khama on Independence Day.
The countdown started on 30th September 2015 when the Roving Torch was lit by the President. Since then, the Torch has traversed the country covering 427 villages and will arrive in Gaborone on the 25th September 2016. The build-up activities have included music festivals, road shows, and live broadcasts from across the country, mounting of the BOT50 signages across the country among others.
On the backdrop of what sports minister Thapelo Olopeng and Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) chairperson Solly Reikeletseng said on Monday this week, it has emerged that national sports federations do not use the All Africa Games for qualification of their athletes and teams for the Olympic Games.
At the Monday press briefing held at the sports ministry headquarters on Monday, Olopeng and Reikeletseng dismissed as untrue that the continental games were not found attractive by top African sports stars because they give no qualification passage towards the world’s most prestigious sport festival. However, the defensive duo cited Athletics, Table Tennis, Basketball, Paralympic sport and boxing as sporting disciplines through which African sportspersons can gain Olympic Games qualification from the All Africa Games.
But some sports administrators involved at the helm of the quoted disciplines both locally and across the borders said while that may be true, they have not in the past had their athletes and teams qualify from the Africa Games. A national federation official in Kenya, a country that usually sends more numbers to the Olympics more than other African countries, revealed that by the time the All Africa Games arrive, most of their sports stars would have already qualified for the Olympics. “As I say this now, most of our athletics stars have already gained qualification for Rio, hence most have opted not to be included in Team Kenya for the games in Congo,” the Kenyan sports administrator told BG Sport via a Facebook inbox interview this week.
He further confirmed that their IAAF World Championships gold medallists were among the Kenyan stars who did not grace the event. “Kenya had seven gold medallists in China and they have opted out of the African Games. (David) Rudisha is not there for the 800m, our Javelin world champion Julius Yego is not there and all the others. But they will be at the Olympics,” he added.
He explained that in their understanding, it is the African and international sports federations that determine Olympic qualifiers through their numerous sanctioned competitions, and that the All Africa Games have not been that significant in their quest to qualify their teams and athletes. This, the sports ministry’s policy analyst Falcon Sedimo also mentioned on Monday, although for him it was as a rebuttal to the notion that only the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) was the only body that can offer qualification to the Olympics.
Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) vice president Glody Dube also argued that the All Africa Games were of little significance in terms of qualification of their athletes for the Olympics. Dube, who has also reached the Olympic finals as an athlete, said the BAA only looks at the athletes with the best times to determine their passage to the Olympic Games. He added that winning races at the African games is not a guarantee for qualification especially if they go on to post poor times afterwards. “Only the best athletes who will satisfy the association with impressive times are selected for the Olympic games,” he said.
The minister had also mentioned that Basketball at the All Africa Games was used as an Olympic qualifier, but authorities at the sport code sang a different tune. Botswana Basketball Association (BBA) spokesperson Tumelo Boima said the Games do not act as Olympic qualifiers. He instead said qualification can only be gained by competing at continental competitions like the Afro Basketball, which are played under the African Basketball Federation. Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) president Dr Thato Patlakwe also differed with his sport superiors on boxing at the All Africa Games being used as an Olympic qualifier. “They are totally not Olympic qualifiers. We have two Olympic qualifiers including the Boxing World Champions that will be held in Qatar in October. Two of our boxers Kagiso Bagwasi and Zibani Chikanda have already qualified for the World Championships where they can qualify, not at the All Africa Games.” Patlakwe added that they have another chance to qualify for the Olympics at the African Boxing Championships that take place early next year in Cameroon.
Last week this publication questioned the significance of the All Africa Games in the current format and organisation in as far as qualification for the Olympic Games is concerned. The argument revolved around the reason why most African stars always shun the games and thus render the quality of competition poor. Most athletes and sports administrators have cited that among other anomalies regarding the games, they were not Olympic qualifiers and thus they saw no reason to strut and fret at the games. However, minister Olopeng, supported by Reikeletseng and Sedimo this Monday dismissed talk that the games are not Olympic qualifiers, citing Athletics, Basketball and Boxing as examples of codes that use the continental games as qualifiers. Reikeletseng went on to describe as “a myth,” the talk that top African athletes do not take the games seriously.
The BNSC chairman cited South African swimmer Chad le Clos, Nijel Amos and Isaac Makwala as examples of top African athletes who are there at the moment. Amos had to compete in his race with unknown competitors this week as there was no Ethiopian Mohammed Aman and Kenya’s Rudisha, the Africans that have always given him competition. Similarly, Makwala had a field day beating other unknown opponents in a race that had not South African Wayde van Niekerk, the current world 400m champion.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Lewis Malikongwa has suspended the beleaguered Executive Director of the dissolved Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC), Benjamin Raletsatsi. This comes hardly a month after the ministry dissolved the National Executive Committee and District Youth Councils of BNYC.
Raletsatsi was allegedly suspended for refusing to act on a directive from Malikongwa last month to terminate all contracts of remaining employees of the dissolved BNYC. “He was told that once he has terminated the contracts he should negotiate with them on how they can be compensated,” said the source. Reached for comment, Raletsatsi confirmed receiving a letter of his suspension from the ministry. He was cagey with details saying, “That is all I can say at the moment because I do not want to jeopardise my case.” The Chief Public Relations Officer at the ministry, Thobo Tlhasana confirmed that Raletsatsi has been suspended indefinitely. “I cannot get into details about his suspension at the moment, you will get the reasons in due course,” said Tlhasana. Last month the Lobatse High Court Justice Modiri Letsididi heard an urgent application by former BNYC board members to interdict the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Thapelo Olopeng from appointing a new board.
State attorney Joseph Akoonyatse argued that the matter was not urgent because the committee that was challenging the dissolution of BNYC had long known about the Presidential directive. “The applicants could have taken action immediately after they heard of the cabinet memo and the presidential directive to dissolve BNYC structures. Firstly it was retrenchment of workers and now the same action has been taken to the board and NEC. They are not explaining how this action would make them suffer,” Akoonyatse said. In his founding affidavit, former BNYC Acting Chairperson Boniface Diso, said BNYC had enjoyed autonomy over the years and contracted with the outside world without the involvement or blessing of the government. “The BNYC has been sued before by its former employees and members, and in one case, the government indicated that BNYC is an autonomous body when an attempt was made to cite the Government of Botswana as a party,” Diso said.
“The court accordingly agreed with the government in that case that indeed the BNYC is an autonomous body capable of suing and being sued and absolved the government from liability.” Earlier last month, properties belonging to the embattled organisation was put under the hammer by Gaborone High Court judge Terrence Rannowane, for failing to comply with a court order in a case in which its former Social Unit Manager had been awarded more than P1 million for unlawful dismissal. It has since emerged that BNYC did not defend the lawsuit after it was served with the papers and did not honour a judgment in favour of Veronica Chube when she approached the court in 2012. This is not the first time that Raletsatsi is suspended from the troubled organisation. He was charged with making unilateral decisions that allegedly threw the BNYC into financial dire straits. He was also accused of improper tendering and restructuring of the organisation. Raletsatsi was subsequently cleared of the charges and returned to work in April 2013.
Fresh reports are linking sacked national soccer team assistant coach, Keitumetse Pio Paul with a move to Gaborone United where he will allegedly assist Rahman Gumbo. Paul was last week relieved of his duties by BFA on the excuse that his vision was at variance with theirs.
GU is said to be looking for a full time assistant coach since the incumbent George Mogopodi has a full time job elsewhere. Besides being an assistant to Peter Butler at national team level, Paul was also National Under-23 coach. At club level he was engaged by Extension Gunners as assistant on a five month short term contract. It is believed that GU financer Nicolas Zakhem has his eyes fixed on the former North West University Sports Science lecturer. Close sources say Zakhem has always liked Paul. For instance, it is said that Zakhem sponsored Paul’s trip when he attended a coaching course in Germany last year.
Meanwhile, fresh reports suggest that it will take a while before the dust settles on Paul’s dismissal from the association. The dismissal has rubbed senior executive sports authorities in the country the wrong way. In the first place they are questioning why the association has decided to fire him instead of seating him down to counsel and warn him about his behavior. Although word had it that the BNSC leadership was also irked by the matter, Chairperson Solly Reikeletseng would not be drawn into discussing the issue, only saying it was an internal administrative issue of the BFA. “Besides, the matter has not been officially brought to the attention of my office,” he said.
On the other hand, sports minister Thapelo Olopeng said while he was aware of the dismissal, he could not readily comment. “But I do want to know what exactly transpired. I was actually supposed to meet the BFA this week but they told me that they would be travelling. Call me next week after my meeting with them. I have a few things to discuss with them,” he said, adding that he hopes no one would accuse government of interference. “We know about these issues of government interference, but people should understand that sometimes as elders and as Batswana, we have to assist in resolving matters in an amicable way,” he said.
In fact, there seem to be divisions on Paul’s sacking even within the executive. Some in the committee feel that the decision to fire Paul was not done in good faith and that something better should have been done. Paul remains one of the highly educated coaches locally. He holds a degree in Physical Education from America, Masters of Arts in Sports Development and Coaching from Cardiff University School of Sports. He has a UEFA A and B Pro-level Coaching Certificate from KNVB Holland, a German B Coaching Licence and as player, he won all local competitions of his time and won the Coca–Cola Cup as a young coach.