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New or false dawn?

MQONDISI DUBE
Rakgare was handed the Cabinet responsibility this week PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
After years of probing questions, Tumiso ‘Chillyboy’ Rakgare will soon find roles reversed after President Mokgweetsi Masisi, handed the 36-year-old the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) portfolio. Hopes have been raised, that Rakgare will succeed where his predecessors fell flat, but is this a new or false dawn? Asks Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE

At the height of his journalism career, Rakgare was known as an abrasive prober, who took no-prisoners.

He settled right in the nerves of those in football power, as he held them to account. Rakgare, in a way, sparked the debate around Constituency League, when he alerted the then FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, and raised questions if the tournament did not fall foul with the soccer governing body’s laws.

Blatter, who was visiting Gaborone then, promised to probe the matter further, and there were threats that the country could face a suspension.

Rakgare always took the seats on the higher pedestal in the Botswana Football Association’s (BFA) auditorium, where most of the usually volatile press conferences took place.

At times those in power felt his line of questioning was outright, rude, but that was Chillyboy’s hallmark.

He has played football before at junior national level and continues to engage in Sunday soccer.

Rakgare is a thoroughbred football person, lent to politics. He has been to several political homes before, but like a prodigal son, he retraced his steps to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

It proved a masterstroke as he won the elections, after a defeat in 2014, evidence of his persistence. This week, President Masisi gave him probably the biggest assignment of his career.

While in terms of power ranking, the sports ministry falls behind the likes of defence, presidential affairs, finance and minerals, Rakgare’s portfolio is replete with land mines.

Sports has been a hotbed of politics for ages, and Rakgare, as a former journalist, is aware of the questions his credentials will be constantly subjected too.

His predecessors have mostly adopted a more diplomatic approach to dealing with issues. 

But Rakgare, if he has not shed his combative character, might lean towards the ‘gunboat’ or even ‘guerrilla’ diplomacy.

The biggest change needed in sport is the mindset around funding. Sports has continuously complained about what it calls paltry funding, against rising demands.

Almost all the sport codes’ tears drop around the same issue; lack of funding.

While successive ministers have urged the codes to be innovative and attract funding from elsewhere, particularly the corporate sector, it has become apparent that reliance is still heavily on the State.

But the annual grant

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has been stagnant, and the new minister carries the burden of proving that sport indeed deserves a large slice of the national cake.

Botswana has already produced a significant global champion in Amantle Montsho, while the performance of the likes of Isaac Makwala, Nijel Amos and Ross Branch, have enhanced the profile of sports. Rakgare faces the daunting task of convincing doubters about the capability of sport as a potential key revenue earner and employer.

In neighbouring South Africa, which is admittedly far ahead, sports has shone hope on the hopeless, and created endless opportunities for young men and women, looking to earn a living from their talents.

Rakgare has to immediately dispel the lingering myth that football is sport and that sport is football. Football is by far, the largest sport constituency, but in terms of performance, athletics has been way ahead. But resources have been heavily skewed towards football, which is understandably played across the country.

However, the football obsession has driven even potential medal winners from other codes, into depression, knowing that no matter how much they dance, the loudest cheer would be reserved for football.

Rakgare’s predecessor, Tshekedi Khama, was on that path to decentralise sports around football. However, a scientific approach is needed, and should guide Rakgare’s blueprint.

Rakgare is a known football person, but that should not handicap him in succeeding, as a father of all sports codes.

The role of the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC), at times overlap.

Former minister, Shaw Kgathi and Gladys Kokorwe, oversaw a peace treaty after years of attrition amongst the BNSC, BNOC and the Department of Sport and Recreation.

There needs to be further interrogation of the role of the remaining powerful bodies, to see where a merger can take place.

Rakgare has a long list of ‘to-do’ things and it would depend on which one he will picks first, that will determine if he endears himself to an expectant sports family. If he gets his cards right, then it would be a sparkling new dawn for sports, but if not, he will, at the end of his tenure, disappear into distant memory like his many other predecessors.



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