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War of words over basketball plot

CALISTUS KOLANTSHO
Land dispute: Basketball wants a piece of land arguing their plot was taken away by BNSC PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
For the past four years, Botswana Basketball Association (BBA) has been involved a tussle with the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) to be allocated a piece of land.

The tiff between BBA and BNSC has previously reached the office of former Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama. 

On November 3, 2020 BBA president, Boineelo Hardy wrote a letter to BNSC chief executive officer Tuelo Serufho enquiring about the plot.

“This letter serves as a follow up to various letters sent to the BNSC over re-allocation of plot to basketball. This follows allocation of basketball plot to various other parties,” Hardy said in the letter.

Hardy told Mmegi Sport that when she campaigned for elections in 2016 there were four things that she wanted to deliver, but the most important one was to get a plot for BBA.

“I am coming to the end of my term and I would not seek re-election. I have informed BNSC that I want to hand over something when I go. Khama had asked BNSC why they took our plot and not re-allocate us. At the time Falcon Sedimo promised to resolve the issue and they were promising us a plot near BONA courts,” she said.

Hardy said BBA had a plot behind Lekidi Centre, but Sedimo informed them a Cabinet decision had been made to take the plot and give it to the Botswana Football Association (BFA).

She said they were informed that FIFA had released funding for an academy. She added that the decision affected basketball and rugby plots.

Two years ago, Hardy travelled to China where she struck a deal with a potential Chinese investor.

“The billionaire agreed to build an infrastructure for basketball. He is a former International Basketball Federation (FIBA) president. I informed Sedimo and Bobby Gaseitsiwe about the pledge and we need the plot,” she said. Hardy said in the meantime they wanted to refurbish a basketball facility that belongs to Gaborone City Council (GCC) at Extension 12.

“We were paying a lot of money for the league to be played including national teams training. When we were busy planning to refurbish the place, there was something happening behind the scenes,” she said.

Hardy said the other option was Tsholofelo Park Courts, but they were not suitable for basketball during the day. She said at night it is also impossible because of light issues.

“Extension 12 is a small facility and we could manage it. When we got to Khama’s office, I submitted letters that I had written to BNSC, which they had not responded to. On the other side, BNSC was communicating efficiently with Churchill Barrows (who had leased the Extension 12 facility from BNSC). Ultimately, Sedimo wrote to GCC that he is sub-letting the facility to a private company.

There was a lease between BNSC and this company,” she said.

Hardy said the letters between BNSC and the private company were presented at the meeting with the minister. She revealed that the former CEO had meetings with the private company, which belongs to Churchill, while he declined meetings with BBA.

Hardy said Khama pointed out the government would lose a lot of money if the lease between BNSC and the company were to be terminated. “The minister said the company should continue renting out the Extension 12 courts. We tried to get GCC to fix the lighting at Tsholofelo, but it was impossible because of bureaucracy,” she added.

Hardy said national teams struggled to train last year because they could not access courts at private schools due to examinations.

“BNSC prioritised the operations of a private company over a national association. We had to pay institutions for the national team to train. Coming out of this situation, Barrows bullied me on social media. He went a step further and wrote letters to affiliates calling for my impeachment,” said an emotional Hardy. She added Barrows claimed that he won against her in the boardroom and took the plot.

According to Hardy, during the meeting with Khama, there was a disparity over the rental. The BNSC wanted Barrows to pay P10,000 but GCC wanted P1,500.  Khama asked where the P8,500 was going, but there was no answer. Apparently, BNSC director of facilities, Kearabetswe

Galebotse resigned a week later after the meeting.

“I have been pushing for the association to have a plot. I went out to

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FIBA and got a pledge. I pushed BNSC to get a plot but at the same time have a place where we could play the league for free. The association lost out sorely due to the action of the BNSC. What is painful is that my name was dragged in the mud. When I wrote letters to BNSC, I represented the views of the association, but someone fed Barrows with that information,” she said.

Hardy said Barrows always accused her of being after a plot that was leased to him.

“We are an association, we do not have a league sponsor but we spent money to pay for facilities. It is now three years without getting back to the FIBA honorary president because we do not have land,” she said.

Hardy said she recently informed BNSC chairperson, Morule Marumo that BNSC has repeatedly ignored their calls. She said she does not want the BNSC to take land away from Barrows or BFA, but to re-allocate basketball a plot.

“How did BNSC sub-lease government land to a private company? Why is the association being ignored when requesting for land? I have been asked to keep quiet on this issue and it cannot happen anymore,” Hardy said.

For his part, Barrows told Mmegi Sport they still have a lot of things to do with the place such as sewerage lining and electricity connections.

“We have spent a lot of money on this place. We are young unemployed people who have love for basketball and we are doing everything to upgrade this place,” he said.

Mmegi Sport also visited the plot that was allocated to the BFA. A huge chunk of the land remains unoccupied. The area has dilapidated courts, but it seems like the floor could be salvaged.

Barrows accused Hardy of not telling the truth. He said basketball came to know of the land behind Lekidi because of him. “I want to be direct with you, maybe Hardy is saying this because she is not seeking re-election or because we have a personal tiff. But this level of lying is disrespectful to us. The only thing I could say is that I have a contractual relationship with BNSC with the consent of GCC. It took two years to put together and it shows that we came first to request the place,” he said. Barrows said he was not in a position to talk about the conditions of the agreement because it was confidential. He added the lease is for 20 years and he applied for the place under a Presidential directive.

He said there has never been any league played at Extension 12 courts until last year when he brought the Gaborone league.

“BBA has had a plot for over two decades. I got into a contract with the landlord and it involved other five ministries. We fought for that land. Before we came here we rented at UB courts and we paid a lot of money. Our company, Gaborone Sports Hub has paid more in rental fees,” he said.

Barrows said it is surprising that Hardy starts talking about the land when she is leaving office next month.

“If you leave basketball, leave with pride and not tell the public untruths. Some executive committee members resigned because of her. We made a mistake by giving a position to someone who is not able to deliver and handle personal agendas. I do not mince my words when I say she is a liar,” Barrows fumed.

Regarding social posts, Barrows said they were fighting and Hardy brought her position into the mix.

“The problem became when she started involving her position into our fight. What she writes on social media, I respond [to],” he said.

BNSC director, sports development-technical,

Gaseitsiwe denied that BNSC had allocated the basketball plot to BFA. He said the basketball plot still exists and the BFA used a small potion of the land. “The BFA academy has been allocated a plot somewhere else. We have instructed basketball to bring us a plan of their project including sponsors. We have also allowed basketball to use Tsholofelo Park courts because BNSC has leased them from GCC,” Gaseitsiwe said.



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