New Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama says he will address nagging sports concerns, even before the country goes for polls in October. Khama replaced Thapelo Olopeng late last year, and in his short reign, TK says he has identified leaks that need immediate repairs. He spoke to Mmegi Sport Staff Writer, CALISTUS KOLANTSHO in a wide ranging interview.
BNSC funding model to change
Khama says he is concerned about the way the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) has been funding certain codes. He reveals that he has made a commitment to move towards supporting codes that deliver. “We reward on delivery because some of the things that I find is that culture has determined that certain codes get the lion’s share while other codes cannot see the year through,” he says. Khama says the other option is that funding should not be done in block, at the beginning of the year but quarterly, which means BNSC would then monitor the performance of the codes per quarter.
“It would give them more work but that way it gives us flexibility. One of the things that we have a problem with, is government funding and spending. You have a financial period and a budget year, but not everything runs with that year,” he explains.
Khama says there are codes that they were funding now but something else might crop up during the year, yet the funds have been exhausted, hence the need to leave some of the budget for emergencies. He gives an example of Ross Branch when he competed at Dakar Rally and Ouma Rammidi, the first Motswana who is going to conquer Mount Everest.
“Neither of these two events were budgeted for but we should be able to assist. We would like to move to rewarding codes that perform and give them funding relative to that. Also to unearth new codes and talent,” he adds.
Khama says there is lot of talent in Botswana on individual context not necessarily as teams. He argues such people should be recognised and assisted. “We should be flexible because sport is flexible. The case in point is Botswana Karate Association (BOKA). They wanted to host the 2019 UFAK Championship and BNSC said they did not have funds and that was the answer but not the right answer,” he points out.
Khama says not having funds is another answer then another response could have been, ‘they would look for money elsewhere’.
“We would look for money somewhere is the answer that I liked and as a result we are going to host,” he adds. Khama points out that BNSC currently does not have money but MYSC has it and that is where they are funding.
“They (BNSC) do not have to give away everything at the beginning. If people come and pronounce themselves during the year, BNSC should be there for them. What saved us with karate is that the event is in the next financial year and we made a commitment. But government does not like that kind of budgeting,” says Khama.
BNSC chair search cast far and wide
Khama says they expect the process of appointing BNSC chairperson to be completed on Monday. He notes that the shortlist would be taken to Cabinet for approval.
“When I arrived here I had a set of names that was sent to me. I do not know these people (ga ke baitse). What I did was to look at the management skills of people not necessarily their affiliation to sport. I was never trained to be a Minister but I think I did a good job in Tourism. I am not a star football player but I have the passion.” He explains that he sent out a team to canvas for potential candidates, but looked at those with experience in sourcing funding and projecting themselves where they are working.
Khama states that he did not consider anybody from government for obvious reasons, as he does not want government thinking for a BNSC chairperson.
“We found a few people without recycling the same old. We tend to recycle the same people in our boards. There are some candidates who are below the radar, but doing amazing things quietly. Ga ba tsose modumo,” Khama says.
Restructuring at BNSC
Khama says the restructuring exercise at BNSC is not to make people lose jobs. He reveals that BFA has about 60 employees and it is something they need to look at. “When you build an empire, when it is not sustainable, heads roll. The objective of the exercise is not to make people jobless but to redeploy them. You do not all have to stay in Gaborone,” he points out.
Constituency league is ok
Khama says the Constituency league is a good initiative. “It is popular, it works, effective and competitive. It is a model that shows it can work. The only thing is that it needs to be funded and supported better than what it is,” Khama says.
“It is at a good level because when you see the age group that are playing, that is when you want to have people being involved in things related to their upbringing, commitment and the reason for belonging to their teams. Constituency league does that so well and we do not only have it in football, netball, athletics but options should be included.”
Abhors alcohol but support its sponsorship
Khama says he differs with other people giving an example that if he can get sponsorship for the youth and it comes from alcohol, which is beneficial, there is nothing wrong with it.
“The alcohol sponsorship does not mean the youth would drink alcohol or the person who benefits from it would become alcoholic. If alcohol is allowed to be sold, it is legal,” he posits.
Khama says alcohol sponsorship should be accepted and make good out of the bad. “Where is alcohol levy working? Where is the go-to place when people needs help from alcohol and drug abuse?” he wondered. He says the alcohol levy should be used to impart knowledge to the youth on dangers of indulging in alcohol.
Holiday over on allowances
Khama reveals the payment of national teams’ allowances is the responsibility of MYSC and BNSC. He says distributing funds at the beginning of the year, makes them lose track of what is going on.
“I have spoken to Falcon Sedimo about monitoring the codes. Falcon is going to work. Codes are going to go back and report on how they have spent their funding quarterly. The holiday is over,” he says.
Doesn’t agree with stadia project
Khama says the decision to built 10 stadia across the country was taken before he took over and he would have done things differently. “You know the motivation behind the stadiums. Those stadiums talk mostly to football but if you want to develop more codes, you need to be flexible. We need to develop other facilities to support other codes at the same location,” he says.
The Minister says the government should not just have built stadia only but focused on other areas such as tennis, basketball, cricket and other facilities.
“It could have been more holistic. It is a start but the challenge we have in government is that we start a project but we fail to move to phase two. I have seen it before. Not because of lack of funds but planning officers. Something happens and funds are shifted there. I hope the stadiums are turned into sporting centres during the next phase,” he says.
Khama reveals that National, Masunga and Serowe stadia are to be closed due to maintenance works. He says new stadia are being built while the current ones are not being fixed.
“A pronouncement has been made and people are expecting them. We need to be aware that we cannot be building structures across the country that you cannot maintain. They must be sustainable.” Khama says the government must know that they are in for a long haul to maintain them. He says maintaining includes having technical staff. “Let us look at doing things differently. We can build stadiums but let us look at holistic package not just that one. What about other codes? If I was in private sector this is a project I was going to cancel as it is not going to give us returns,” he says.
Khama has a passion for cycling
The Minister says his passion is cycling but he also finds netball interesting and has the potential to grow. He says other codes that need attention are basketball and weightlifting. Khama says he now has interest in karate after launching the UFAK LOC. “Athletics is another code that needs to be highlighted but it is unfortunate that it does not have proper facilities.”
He says his intention is to leave a roadmap for sport. Khama says he has started dealing with challenges facing sport. “A roadmap would show where sport should go to, it should be budgeted, planned and rolled out. That would be a legacy for me. When you look at the grounds behind the National Stadium, they are dismal for a country that exports the highest value in diamonds. Why have we ignored sport? We should have put more into sport,” Khama said. He said if he is brought back to MYSC after General Elections, the wants to improve sporting codes and facilities around the country. Khama said he would encourage family oriented sporting.
“I would like to have meaningful development of sport codes. Not to go and win medals but to create a base to have a good sporting temperament within this country so that we know what sport is about,” he says.