Botswana Taekwondo at war with itself

Neo Masanako BG Correspondent
Thursday, 11 October 2018

With only a month in office, the newly elected Botswana Taekwondo Federation (BTF) Executive Committee is already running  into trouble. The federation is currently  in disarray with the national team fuming and calling for the leadership to be removed from office with immediate effect.The Vinay Naicker led federation was re-elected in September 2018. Naicker was first elected  president of the federation since 2013.

This week some BTF  athletes expressed  their  unhappiness  with the treatment they receive form the Association and feel the only remedy is for Naicker and his team to vacate office. They athletes  alleged  that they are  under appreciated  and every time they air their grievances they are threatened with expulsion from the team.

They also say the team selection process is unfair and  biased, “When I compete against another athlete and lose, then in a few days I learn that I have been picked instead of winner, it does not make sense,” claimed one of athletes  who preferred aninomity  for  fear  of victimization.  The  concerned  athletes  further  complained that  they  hardly compete but  they are  referred  to as a national team.

“Most of them last competed in 2016; even local tournaments such as club championships hardly happen and there is hardly proper communication from management,” one  of the  athletes  alleged.“There was an international tournament that we once attendedm and  we were like lost puppies with baggy tracksuits and no proper competition gear. We survived on bread and were hungry most of the time, this is sad because the leadership does not care about us,” another claimed.

They went on to say that at one point they were told that their allowances and appearance fees were used for transport costs and they will be reimbursed but nothing has come forward. They have tried to seek answers from the management but it  was all in vain.
Reached  for  comment  this  week, BTF Technical Director Gladys Njoroge rubbished the allegations. Being in charge of the technical aspect of things, Njoroge explained that they have the wellfare of athletes at heart,adding  she is more of a mother figure  to the athletes.

“I do not understand where all that is coming from, I am a strict leader and I do not tolerate indiscipline, proper actions are taken against those who do not follow the rules, however I cannot say I am abusive,” she said. However, the athletes went on to accuse Njoroge of nepotism, saying she sent her brother Samuel Kimani Njoroge of Kenya to Korea for a training course and in the process neglected local athletes.

Njoroge explained that her brother was not representing Botswana in Korea but his own country Kenya, something that is confirmed by letter from WTF dated 8th September 2018, which Identifies Kimani as a delegate from Kenya.
Njoroje also dismissed accusations that she sold the team donated uniforms.

“Those are all lies, the matter was reported to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and even the Ministry of youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, we have been cleared of all those accusations now they are coming up again,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Vice President of the Federation Jang Su Kim when reached had a mouthful to say. He called the Federation rotten, saying there are many operational anomalies at BTF. In fact, he has already written a letter to Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), detailing his concerns. Kim was the one responsible for receiving and handling the donations from international bodies when he was deputising Naicker. 

“It is true what the athletes are saying, they were sold donated uniform. I even told the president about what was happening however, Njoroge denied all. I know the difference between Korean donated items and items bought elsewhere, I am a Motswana but was raised in Korea, I know these things,” claimed Kim.

In his letter to BNSC, Kim complained that there were no clear reports at BTF on how funds were used and that BNSC has to cross check items donated by WTF from 2012 to 2017 as a lot of the items were missing.However, Njoroge believes that Kim is manipulating the national team and feeding them with all sorts of negativity. 

“I am very disappointed in him, I have supported him and today because he is no longer sitting in the committee suddenly there is a commotion,” she said. Njoroge revealed that there has been a division in the Federation of late and suddenly even the national team wants them to step down. She said it was unfortunate for someone of Kim’s age to be misleading the young ones.

“Majority of those athletes currently do not belong to any club because they have since moved away and want to form new clubs,” she noted. 

Currently there are only three clubs registered with BTF.
The athletes say they cannot get anything done because they are considered irrelevant, as they are not members. Njoroge told this publication that the right procedures have to be followed for them to be affiliates saying they have about five pending requests.
Quizzed on why there are only three clubs at BTF and if BNSC was well with the issue, BNSC Technical Development Officer Bobby Gaseitsiwe said they usually want the affiliate to have clubs in other villages or have a plan to grow it to other areas in Botswana.

Gaseitsiwe said they have to look at each application on its merit because there are sports which are very young in Botswana, and it is their responsibility to support them grow.  “Some are Olympic sport and it is in our interest to make sure that we fully support even though on face value they can be seen to be small. Others are too expensive to start and also be grown around the country due to their sophistication,” he said.

Naicker’s eligibility as presidency is also being questioned as allegedly, according to WTF Statutes, a member nation (MNA) president, unless otherwise approved by WTF, shall be a citizen and resident of the nation or territory that the MNA represents.

Naicker is from South African.
 In his response, Naicker said the issue was news to him and he is currently a council member of the Continental Union and had never been aware of such a ruling.   Naicker said he has contacted the Continental Union and the President of the Continental Union whom is the Vice President of the World Taekwondo for clarification.

“They indicated through the secretariat that this is totally a member national issue (Federation) and neither WT (World Body) nor WTA (Continental Union) have any authority over who presides. We are governed by our Federation Constitution and the Laws of Botswana,” he said.Quizzed on how they endorsed the BTF president, Gaseitsiwe said he knew little about the World Taekwondo Constitution.

“We are more guided by the Constitution approved by Registrar of Societies. The World bodies do work with their Affiliates independently and we have no direct link with them. Our affiliates have their members who pay subscription to them. Same as our affiliates pay annual subscription to BNSC,” noted Gaseitsiwe.

Gaseitsiwe went on to say he was not aware of any signs of storm brewing at BTF, “I have never seen any letter at our office and our doors remain open to all, including the athletes,” he said. 

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