Tennis coach, BTA in acrimonious split

Disgruntled tennis coach, Wellington Sibanda has quit the Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) citing poor working conditions and has since moved to Namibia.

While Sibanda was the national team coach, he was also in charge of Phikwe tennis club. He is credited with developing a number of top players including Emmanuel Mabechu and Innocent Tidimane.

Speaking to Mmegi Sport from his new Namibia base yesterday, Sibanda said he has worked for BTA under poor conditions with the same salary for years.

He arrived in Botswana in 1997, but was forced to seek greener pastures after realising there was no change in the approach from BTA. He said last year he turned down an offer from Witbank, South Africa thinking the situation would improve and he also took his players into consideration.

He said after taking stock of himself, he realised that BTA was taking him for granted. “I was working in dilapidated facilities and that demoralised me and my players. The office was not conducive for someone to work in.  “My role was to coach players and take them to tournaments, but the association was always cancelling them at the last minute. The reasons they gave me were not convincing,” he said.

He revealed that he was getting the same salary since he joined the BTA and as a family man, he had to weigh his options. He said BTA board members have never been to the Phikwe club and he was surprised to learn that after his departure, they were quick to go there.

“I learnt that they conducted an audit at the facility. They thought that I had stolen items and brought them to Namibia.

But what is there to steal?” he wondered.

Sibanda stated there are many issues that he was not happy with at the association but preferred to remain quiet. BTA public relations officer, Shelton Benzah confirmed Sibanda’s resignation. He said the association received his resignation letter after he had already left. He added that the former coach did not disclose his Namibia offer in the letter. “We only cancelled tournaments when we did not have funds. There are mandatory International Tennis Federations (ITF) tournaments that we could not miss. That was our main focus,” said Benzah, denying Sibanda’s claim of sabotage.

 He said they are already looking for his replacement. He said the association was also looking at appointing coaches for Jwaneng and Serowe. 

Benzah explained that the Phikwe club was due for renovation in the current financial year. He said the association has received a grant from the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) and part of it will be used to revamp the facility.

“In the last financial year, we constructed a court in Francistown because we wanted to give people there a chance to play the sport. “The grant we receive from BNSC is not enough. We have established a fund raising arm to meet the government half-way,” said Benzah.

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