Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) will go to the polls once given the clear, to elect a new leader, as president Tshepho Bathai’s term ends.
Some of the names likely to replace Bathai, which are being thrown around are of former president David Mathe and Mpho Bakwadi.
There are mixed views about Bathai’s four-year reign.
Bathai confirmed he would not seek another term as he has done his part in the last four years.
“It has been a good journey. It is time for me to concentrate on other private projects. The intention is to call a special general meeting to discuss the next calendar after COVID-19. It is possible that the elections are held end of this year or early next year,” he said.
He said it is a BOKA constitutional issue, but they have to ensure that they do not go beyond the four-year term. Bathai said people who believe that he has done something for karate humbled him. However, he said those who feel otherwise are entitled to their views.
“But you see, it is when you inform people that you are leaving they start to realise what you have done. There is too much politicking in karate and Botswana sport as a whole,” Bathai said.
Former national team coach, Christopher Ponatshego said karate is progressing despite criticism from some quarters.
“There are some people who have been giving the public an impression that karate was doing well when it was not. We do not have a medal from the World Karate Championship (WKF) and we have never proceeded beyond the first round,” he said.
“Karate does not have a gold medal from UFAK and we have never won it. But we gave the public an impression that karate has been doing well. That is not true.”
Ponatshego said the BOKA Hall project carried out with the assistance of the Japanese Embassy was not completed. Phase VI of the project was supposed to be completed in 2016.
He pointed out that the then committee failed to complete the project, but Bathai managed to quickly finish phase two of the project. He said Bathai was also able to develop the BOKA sport development officer.
But Bakwadi, who is linked with the president’s post, believes the sport is regressing.
He pointed out that it is shocking that he is the only WKF qualified kata referee in the country. He said by now there should be more than five referees at his level. “In kumite, the WKF qualified referees are me and Union Kgafela. It is an indication that
Bakwadi said it was time to go back to the drawing board and revive training. He said there should be development of juniors, intermediate and seniors.
“We must block juniors from competing in BOKA activities. It is not a good thing to allow yellow belts to compete in BOKA activities, but they are just allowed because of money. As long as you pay no one cares,” he said.
Bakwadi said BOKA must regulate the grading systems at style level. He said tournaments must be approved by the association and meet certain standards. He suggested that BOKA must do away with styles, but rather clubs should register directly with BOKA.
“The problem is that many people open clubs without the necessary experience leading to students being graded to higher belts before time. The association must invite qualified instructors to train referees and coaches,” he said.
Bakwadi said the decline of karate saw it struggle to win a bronze medal at the 2019 UFAK, but in the past, karate won a gold medal in both kumite and kata.
Former national team coach, Moses Jones is also of the view that there is need to shift in approach. He argues there is no road map for development, and as a result karate had lost many talented athletes in the past.
“And I see it happening in future because of our management system. Our development plan does not allow for well-developed athletes to continue with the process until we get the most out of them. Coaches play a big role in this,” Jones said.
“BOKA does not have a skills transfer and competition development plan where we would see senior athletes share a moment of skill sharing with upcoming athletes. Our senior athletes are treated like nothing and even threatened by the system.”
He observed that the coaching system is not perfect and there is need to have different coaches in national teams, one hired for kata and one for kumite.
Jones said focusing on development has killed the spirit of competition.
Meanwhile, Jones said Bathai used to prioritise development, but changed when he became president.
But he is opposed to a Bakwadi presidency, arguing it would be a wrong move to have chief instructors at the helm.