I am thrilled - pioneer Sebetela

Ask any mother: Labour pangs are the most excruciating pains to be experienced by a woman, but the end result- a baby- can be intoxicatingly exhilarating. That is what happened more than 10 years ago when "a surgical operation" had to be performed- as a matter of urgency- on the then moribund national sport that was as dreary as a sugarless and sopping soft porridge.

The midwife who delivered Vision 2012 was none other than maverick politician, Boyce Sebetela, who, with his characteristic devil-may-care attitude, is making sure feathers fly in Parliament as representative for Palapye. He was in the company of men like the studious Labbeaus Peloewetse and Thuli Johnson, who were softballers of note in their hey-day with the Vikings. It was a day in 1995 that the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) experienced the excruciating pains, which resulted in a child called "Sports Vision 2012" who came out screaming and kicking. Now a cocky and gangly lad of 12, his maturity certainly belies his age.

Sebetela was the chairperson of the sports council while Peloewetse was his deputy. Johnson was a member of the executive committee.

The air was charged with widespread disgruntlement in the run-up to the birth of Sports Vision 2012, which was to take place in one of the conference rooms inside the national stadium. Due date was actually the annual general meeting. So, on the day, on one hand was Sebetela and his executive committee, who felt time was ripe for a complete somersault in the way sports was being run in Botswana. In the other corner, were members of various codes who felt that Sebetela wanted results at all costs and was fond of riding roughshod over them?

On that day- which was characterised by a lot of acrimony-the sports codes had planned a surprise coup, but only Peloewetse ended up being the casualty while Sebetela continued to run the show, albeit with a great deal of circumspection.

After all- and with prophetic foresight- he was content that he had duly performed the necessary surgical operation which must have irked sports officials of those days who always piggybacked on sports funds to become tourists in foreign countries.

It was a norm in those days for officials to outnumber athletes on foreign trips.  Rumours had it that some officials even went to the extent of taking their girlfriends or spouses on honeymoon.

It was usual for athletes on coming back to complain that they never saw the officials they went with during the games until the day of boarding the planes bound for home. So, an operation had to be performed and according to Sebetela, it came in the form of excising large amounts of funds that over the years were meant for "administration" and putting them into sports development. That must have been the cause for the acrimony from the officials who felt they were being denied a bite at their usual cherry.

Sebetela and company demanded accountability in the sports codes. For example, for a sport code that wanted to participate in a foreign company, they have to prove they have medal potential where they are going. In simplistic terms, if a sport code wanted to send a team to Australia, they had to produce proof that they have done well in Africa.
Also, Botswana was renowned for participating and not competing, hence the erstwhile tag "Whipping boys of Africa" that was always glued on the foreheads of the Zebras.
In that period, not only did Botswana host the Under 17 football games, where Botswana boys were harangued with 7-0 by Egypt, but they also sent some players to Manchester United for intensive training. Now, in his Palapye constituency office, Sebetela is excitedly watching the unfolding of his dream like a child offered sweets.

"I am thrilled. The performance of our sports codes is simply breathtaking. It is clear the foundation of 1995 when we first put in place Sports Vision 2012, with clear milestones on a four year cycle, is beginning to bear fruit," was all he could say. 

But, tongue-in -cheek, he hastened to point out that he was not alone, but with Peloewetse, Johnson and others.

"It is because of the efforts of bo-Rre Johnson, Dorcus Makgato-Malesu and others in implementing and improving the Vision complimented the goals of 1995 that we (Botswana) are becoming such a powerhouse on the international sporting scene," he said. Asked whether the milestones have been accomplished earlier than expected (2012), Sebetela explained that no, the year (2012) was peak year. "For each four year cycle, 2012 was supposed to be the peak year. I believe we have done exceptionally well in Africa. Now we are waiting to see if we can similarly pick medals at the Olympics and other international sports meetings," said Sebetela.

The politician, famous for taking the powers that-be in Parliament head-on, said now his big disappointment is slow delivery of sporting facilities. But he is hopeful things would improve for the better with the advent of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. Warily he concluded: "It is just that with this kind of success, you create expectations. People are suddenly realising that sport can be business as well. Young people are re-awakening to a realisation that sports pays hence they will try hard to move up the ranks."

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