The build-up to the Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) election has been characterised by tense moments, as accusations were thrown around. In the presidential contest, Mpho Bakwadi is making a second attempt to unseat Tshepho Bathai in the elections billed for tomorrow. The two candidates sat down with Staff Writer, CALISTUS KOLANTSHO for an interview ahead of the clash in Kanye
Mmegi: Please introduce yourselfBathai: I was born in Kanye but grew up in Lobatse. I hold a Degree in Computer Science and I went on to do my Master’s degree in Strategic Management. I am currently doing a PhD in Business and Management. I have also done many business courses. I have worked for many organisations, so when it comes to the management of an organisation I know what I am talking about. I also serve in the Commonwealth Karate Federation as vice president.
Bakwadi: I am the founding member of the Botswana Hayashi-Ha and I run Bakwadi Karate Academy. It is the only karate school registered with Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA). I also have social responsibility where I assist people who want to train in karate. I have been through that part. I had to sell soft drink bottles to pay Socca Moruakgomo P30 training fee in 1986. I am now a 6th dan black belt WKF approved, WKF referee and judge B in kumite and judge A in kata. I have represented Botswana at regional, zonal, continental and international level karate championships. I was a successful athlete and the memorable moment being at the Shukokai World Championship in Japan in 1994. I was part of the first national team in 1989. I am now pushing to become (BOKA) president.
Mmegi: Bathai, you are seeking re-election, what have been your achievements and challenges? In the case of Bakwadi, why are you interested in contesting and your thoughts on the current leadership?
Bathai: It has been an exciting journey and we came up with different initiatives for the growth of karate. I am proud that there has been inclusivity in karate. We have included all federations in BOKA, no matter if they were against me in the past elections or they were against me during my tenure. In the past elections, Bakwadi was my opponent but I appointed him the Referees Commission chairperson. We have developed policies to assist us in running the organisation. When I took over, such policies did not exist. We have also done a qualification framework. It also did not exist before. We have also tried to take karate to different areas such as Maun. We have been successful in hosting international and regional games. In 2018, we hosted the Region 5 karate championship, 2019 we hosted Africa Championship and we have been granted permission to host the Commonwealth Karate Championship. We are also eyeing hosting WKF Karate Series and that is still under discussion. Most people wonder why I like hosting, it comes with development and popularising the sport.
The main challenge of the sport is implementation, but we have tried to make sure that all commissions are functioning. We have also managed to complete BOKA Hall Phase Two. Karate is not only in Gaborone, we have applied for land in Kasane and Tsabong.
Bakwadi: It is not about me but the members. They approached me to challenge, so I gave it a thought and I decided to give it a try for the second time. (Last time) I lost because members were divided and there were four candidates out of 10 clubs. This time around things are different. I have my own leadership style and Bathai has his own, so it is how people feel. Let me give you an example, there was a tournament that was not completed and karatekas were angry, parents were angry that their children arrived home late. It is impossible to have a tournament in a day. There was no advice. When such things happen it is chief instructors who have to answer to parents. However, there are some things that Bathai achieved. Hosting of UFAK was also my idea and he saw it through. But I cannot complain about that, it was for the benefit of BOKA. My worry is the suspensions of officials. I was suspended, which was unlawful and malicious. Bathai should not have done that, it was not fair to me as his opponent.
Mmegi: Bathai, some people say you are a dictator. What is your comment? Bathai: The issue comes from discipline or executing what we have agreed on. That is where we fall short as a nation. I believe that when we agree on timelines they should be met. When they are not met, I find a way for them to be met. That is where I disagree with most people that we just fold our arms after being given responsibilities. ‘Dictator’ is not a polite word, but this all comes from governance and implementation. I am trying to instil corporate governance discipline amongst karatekas. Most of them do not understand it. When you tell someone not to do something, they become angry, when they fail to meet deadlines and I assign them to another person, they are unhappy. However, they are free to say anything that they want.
Bathai: Let us start with Botswana Shokukai Karate Union (BSKU), I do not understand how a file could disappear at the Registrar of Societies. In your article, BSKU claims that the file disappeared in 2018 if they are telling the truth. But I only knew about it in January after I heard the rumours. I would rather not dwell much on the file because I do not know anything about it. I am only interested in that they do not exist in the Registrar of Societies’ database.
In all the letters from the Registrar, they do not say anything about the file. We have even checked manually, records from 1991. As a society, in good standing, you should be submitting returns annually and you should be filing those documents. Are they saying BOKA went to their houses and stole those records? I have requested them to bring any evidence that they are registered.
They failed to bring their certificate. If I was cruel, I could have terminated their membership. I gave them time from January until now to prove that they exist. The issue would be discussed at the assembly for them to make a decision. The tricky part is that I had to take action against them to avoid future mishaps.
Meanwhile, Ryushin Kan was given six months of provincial membership and it was to end in July.
To our surprise, Keorapetse Dube wanted to challenge for a position but we have not been engaging him in many things like we did with full members. We did not even invite him for the AGM because he is under provincial membership. Last week, he withdrew the provincial membership. We have put it on the agenda and the incoming committee would deal with it.
Mmegi: Bakwadi, do you think Bathai is using underhand tactics to win?
Bakwadi: My problem with this regime is suspensions.
I am not saying people should not be suspended, but there should be a hearing first (and) not just take action basing on allegations. When I confronted him on my suspension, he claimed the secretary-general wrote the letter.
Mmegi: In your case Bakwadi, you came under fire for sexual harassment allegations that you made against coaches, did you apologise for the accusations?
Bakwadi: No, I did not apologise. When there are allegations of sexual harassment in karate, the code is not unique because such allegations are rife in all sporting codes. Some incidents happened but they were swept under the carpet. When I spoke about those allegations, one of the coaches fumed saying that I was tarnishing his name.
I was simply saying if I win elections, I would tackle that behaviour. I did not even say national team coaches, but all coaches. It was uncalled for that when Bathai received a complaint letter he suspended me. He never called me for a hearing.
Mmegi: What is your roadmap if you win?Bakwadi: My key factors are inclusive leadership. Consultation with karate instructors shall be central. Their input and counsel would be the pillar of my presidency. The welfare of athletes, referees and coaches is of paramount importance.
When the officials and athletes are taken care of, they would ensure discipline and integrity. I want to resuscitate the development of athletes and support affiliates to grow. As the executive committee, we must account to the members. We might even not get financial reports on Saturday. I want BOKA tournaments to have sponsorship. BOKA was given P750,000 sponsorship, but we do not know what happened to it. We should benchmark from other countries. We should move away from using judge’s flag signals and use the computer system.
Mmegi: What is your take on the suspension of Shokukai? Bakwadi: The suspension is a pity. Unfortunately, (the) BOKA constitution states that as long as you are registered with the Registrar of Societies, you have complied. It does not go further than that.
The current regime wrote a letter to the Registrar requesting compliance of six federations, leaving out their own federations. That makes you wonder why. It was just tactics. Why did they not check last year, if it was not done in bad faith? There is nothing like Nihon Shito-Ryu Kenwa Kai. It is not registered, ask the chief instructor, Isaiah Ramontshonyana to show you the registration certificate.
Fortunately for him, he is allowed to contest for elections. Gujo federation submitted Ramontshonyana’s name (for the elections). (Keorapetse) Dube is a full member of BOKA. He has been paying membership fees.
Mmegi: There are some allegations that you want to withdraw from the race. Your comment?
Bakwadi: It is fine even if l lose. I am a karateka, I am used to that and I turn failure into success. Why should I quit if I do not have numbers? Why would people approach me to contest and not vote for me? If Bathai wins, I would support him.