Elections should be a democratic process, which guarantees individuals' freedom of choice. But the same process can prove to be the chain that retards football's progress, writes MQONDISI DUBE
In 12 months, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) returns to the dreaded polls to elect a new National Executive Committee (NEC). The elections have never been short of drama, dishing as much intrigue as the country’s plebiscite.
The stage is already set; the daggers have been drawn and the kaleidoscopic pieces of who falls in which camp, are taking perfect shape. Two elephant bulls stand on each side of the cordon fence, with the identity of the contestants familiar, barring a late entry, to the 2016 bloodbath.
Former president, Tebogo Sebego has already rallied his troops, within and without BFA, to war. Battle lines have been drawn after the incumbent, Maclean Letshwiti, told a weekend BFA general assembly that he will run for a second term. When he ran for office in 2016, Letshwiti had promised to ‘clean-up’ the football mess in just one term and leave the stage.
But he has since said he wants to finish what he has started while Sebego wants to return for some unfinished business, lines popular at this critical stage of the campaign. Both might have a genuine desire to save the game, but so did several other men, and women before them.
As the two prepare for their gigantic fight, they must be wary of the grass below, which is football. During the election period, focus is usually derailed as candidates go for the man, paying scant regard to the ball.
Football has entered the last 12 months of the silly season, and both camps will be keen to up the ante in order to land the biggest football position in the country. After 2016, only two of Sebego’s Friends of Football lieutenants survived the brutal onslaught from the Letshwiti team. The factions have largely maintained their shape throughout the course, with some of Sebego’s people remaining in the system.
However, Sebego complained about ‘targeted sanctions’, which were aimed at his group, who were purged. But the Letshwiti administration argues, the law has
Tariq Babitseng, Bennett Mamelodi, Kitso Kemoeng, the First Division North committee are some of the perceived Sebego allies who have felt the full wrath of the BFA.
With the elections looming large, more underhand tactics, from both camps are likely to emerge, as the focus is to take leadership, by hook or crook.
Elections are promise-laden by nature, in order to entice voters. But the elections have proved to be ‘stomach’ rather than issue-based. Contesting camps usually accuse the other of using the brown envelope to attract voters, and issues hardly dominate campaign platforms.
But that is not the real danger. The cancer that has slowly eaten into football, and is bound to reign forever as long as elections exist, is the element of indebtedness.
Along the campaigns, candidates engage a lot of foot soldiers, and as South Africa’s Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng recently said, there is no free lunch.
The foot soldiers expect handsome returns for installing their man in power, and effectively the BFA president is always in chains. Therefore the change of personnel might not bring the desired operational evolution, as the incumbent owes gratitude to the people who propelled him to power.
It might appear wrong to pursue the ‘jobs for pals’ route once in office, but under the prevailing circumstances, it has proven unavoidable and sustainable.
The present template encourages the chaining of the president, who has very limited room to manoeuvre. Even if there is a technocrat, but who is politically incorrect, the president tends to overlook him.
The incumbent would want to protect their interests, and surround themselves with people deemed to sing from the same hymnbook. More often, during campaigns, the president is not asked what he will offer football, but what kickback he has in store for the campaign-weary foot soldiers. Only then can he be guaranteed of support.