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A karate campaign like no other

MQONDISI DUBE
Flying kicks: There was no lack of action in the recent karate elections PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
Karate is known for placing both physical and mental discipline at the forefront of its operations. The sport seeks to body a well-rounded individual, but the recent presidential contest did not have the hallmarks karate is known for, writes MQONDISI DUBE

Firm kicks flew all over the place as karate prepared for a crucial elective congress which was held in Kanye recently. At stake, was the Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) presidency.  Initially, incumbent Tshepho Bathai had indicated he would step down to give way to new leadership. But after consultations, he announced his intention to contest.

 Waiting in the ring was Mpho Bakwadi who had previously tried his luck, and Keorapetse Dube who was the new kid of the block. Tensions kicked off right at the start of the campaign when Dube’s hopes were cut short. BOKA argued, Dube’s style Karate-Do Botswana did not have full voting rights, as it had provisional membership.

Bakwadi did not last the distance too, forced to take a detour at the last minute.  He walked out of the meeting in Kanye, moments before the decisive moment, and Bathai was the last man standing. However, it was not the sweetest way to canter to victory. There is still a foul stench hanging around the karate fields.

Bathai and his new committee should brace for testing four years ahead if the temperatures in the run-up to the elections are anything to go by. There were no hugs or a buried hatchet at the end of the Kanye meeting, leaving daggers still drawn. Six out of eight clubs were part of the meeting, while International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) chief instructor, Eileen Alberts joined Bakwadi in protesting what they saw as a sham of an election. Alberts was contesting for the vice secretary-general position. On the eve of the elections, Karabo Samuel and Keone Kgorotlhe were suspended by their federation, JKA Botswana.  Samuel was standing unopposed for the secretary-general’s position. But the suspension was nullified and

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JKA Botswana participated in the polls. It was seen as another underhand tactic to influence the outcome of the ballot.  Bathai believes the volatile plebiscite points to a new level of hunger to drive karate forward. “It was a very intense campaign because we are building something big. We want to make karate a huge industry and all karatekas are excited,” he said. Bathai believes the ugly scenes that characterised the build-up and the day of the election are now a thing of the past. “I believe the water has settled and we are moving forward. Initially, I had not wanted to stand but when you have 80% of the affiliates requesting you to lead them again, it is humbling. Our term ends in 2025; I don’t think I will be available to stand again. We will do what is necessary to have the next leader ready by then,” he added. But Bakwadi accuses his rival of using every dirty trick available in the book to win. “Honestly speaking, I don’t know why such dirty tactics, unless if someone is worried about change. Karate is still a disciplined sport, it depends on the instructors. As far as I am concerned, those so-called elections were not free and fair. They must be nullified as some members were suspended while others refused to participate in the AGM, to be specific, a JKA member,” Bakwadi said.

The mad election season also saw another style, Shokukai suspended as it had failed to comply with the Registrar of Societies requirements. However, Shokukai officials argued the suspension was too harsh as they could have been allowed to regularise. They felt the move had everything to do with the elections.



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