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Judo admits using wrong constitution

ZOLANI KRAAI
Pridgeon
The Botswana Judo Federation (BJF) broke rules in 2013 when it used the wrong constitution during its annual general meeting (AGM).

BJF president, Estony Pridgeon admitted her committee’s blunder after the federation used a 2008 document, which was still a draft, awaiting approval from the Registrar of Societies. Pridgeon told Mmegi Sport that prior to the AGM the BJF committee had consulted the general assembly about the proposed amendments to the 2007 constitution. She said after seeking legal advice from Unity Dow (then a practising lawyer), they went ahead to use the 2008 draft constitution which was yet to be approved.

“We were advised that the constitution is legal from day that it is approved by membership and that the Registrar of Societies (RoS) is only a third party. If we continued using the old constitution after memberships approved the 2008 one, we would be illegal (sic),” Pridgeon said.

The RoS wrote a letter, which is in Mmegi Sport’s possession, strangely addressed to suspended BJF vice president Jang Su Kim clarifying the matter. The Registrar said as a matter of procedure the amendment of a society’s constitution comes into force only after the proposed draft constitution has been date stamped with the Registrar’s stamp.

In May 2013, RoS wrote to BJF, then Botswana Judo and Kurash Association acknowledging receipt of the request by BJF to amend its constitution. At the time when BJF requested the amendment, they were using the 2007 constitution while awaiting the approval of the 2008 document. Kim had questioned the validity of the BJF constitution and sought legal opinion through Mack Bahuma Attorneys. The attorneys, in August 2015, suggested there were instances of non-compliance with constitution of BJF, which included invalid elections, mismanagement of funds, failure to account and submit audited financials. The opinion further states that the minutes submitted to the consultants were scanty and inconsistent.

“The said minutes submitted do not disclose voting results, and the minutes are of only executive committee and not the general membership. The minutes also are not signed (or authenticated) by the relevant officers of the BJF,” the attorneys stated, further highlighting that it was therefore difficult to make concrete factual findings on the activities of the BJF.

“In the case of BJF these records do not appear to be up to date. Further, to ascertain the alleged breach of the constitution of the BJF, these documents would

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have to be availed. What is clear though is that failure to maintain the above records is contrary to section 11 (1) (d) of the Act, and makes BJF liable to have its registration cancelled,” the lawyers states. The said section also provides that registration may be cancelled if a society fails to comply with a demand for documents as outlined in the Act, in sections 16 and 17 of the Act.

The opinion recommends that there are several issues that need to be ascertained before any decisive action is taken on the further conduct of the BJF. It also states that an audit in the finances and management of the organisation needs to be conducted to determine where things went amiss and secondly, to guide any remedial actions to be taken.

The Botswana Judo and Kurash Association Annual Financial Statements dated January 31, 2013, were not independently audited financials as suggested by the RoS. 

Former BJF vice president, Major Henock Lowani (retired), also queried the legality of the elections of the committee in 2013, which were held under the disputed constitution.

Lowani argued three clubs; Tsholofelo, Broadhurst and Thornhill participated in the elections and they were allowed to vote even though their membership had been suspended. He also said all government schools accorded affiliation with BJF had not paid their affiliation fees prior to the May 23, 2016 AGM.

Another disgruntled executive committee member of the BJF Willie Paulson is no longer with the BJF but now coaches players not affiliated to mainstream judo. He has since distanced himself from the federation, stating that he no longer wants to be associated with the mess at BJF. But BJF secretary general, Dorothy Tlagae argues their committee is legitimate after the May 2013 elections. She said despite claims of lack of transparency, the elections were observed by other bodies including the Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) and regulatory body, the Botswana National Sport Commission which declared the process constitutional.

On Lowani’s query that some clubs that attended the 2013 AGM were not affiliated, Tlagae said individual clubs from various schools make up the general assembly and were eligible. However, an AGM registration and affiliation was not availed to Mmegi Sport to prove the clubs’ eligibility at the time.



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