Govt. must get its priorities right on sport

04th April 2018



Despite what authorities might want us to believe, we are tempted to agree with the Botswana Volleyball Federation President Daniel Molaodi who at the sporting code’s Special Congress this past Friday intimated that sport is not among priority agendas of Government. It is no wonder too, that a frustrated Isaac Makwala, fresh from his gold winning streak at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Australia, immediately took to social media to lambast the Botswana government for failing local sports personalities as well as sports in general. Yet at the Mascom Top 8 Awards ceremony held this past Thursday at the GICC in Gaborone, sports minister Thapelo Olopeng delivered a speech that sugarcoats Government’s attitude to sport in the country. He mentioned Government’s plan to build ten sports stadia to cover every district in the country. On the surface, it sounds exciting to all and sundry.

But that is until one learns from the same speech, that Government plans to use a total of only P50 million to build these sporting facilities. This translates to P5million for each sport complex. To build a serious sporting facility good enough to prepare athletes across the sporting divide for international stardom, this immediately sounds like a joke. From the minister’s speech, the envisaged sport facilities are intended to cater for all sporting disciplines, and it boggles the mind how such a facility would be able to accommodate the demands and desires of athletics, boxing, karate, football, volleyball, basketball, cricket, rugby, softball and netball from a budget of only P5million. And this is to mention just a few sporting codes that are popular and often participate in international competitions where we continue to struggle for glory. Now add the likes of badminton, chess, squash, tennis, bowling, swimming, table tennis and judo among others, one wonders how the P5 million is going to be used to come up with a solution that will serve all these sporting needs.

This approach to sports only suggests that to government, sport is some form of charity case waiting to be bailed out from some CSR or donor fund, something that now extends to the private sector who in sponsoring local sporting events, have the impression that they are doing the sporting codes a favour. We call upon Government to up the ante to be aggressive in their approach to sport. By minister Olopeng’s admission, sport is the one area through which individuals and the nation at large could make a lot of money. The likes of Amantle Montsho, Nijel Amos, Allistair Walker (Squash), Tracy Chaba, Isaac Makwala have proved that sport can be individually rewarding given the monies they earned from playing professional sport. If we could put more effort into facilitating talent development by setting up the right infrastructure, we could help our young people to blossom into international stars who would then make money for themselves and the country.

If it is not about infrastructure, then at least government should commit to ensuring there are sponsored activities to encourage competition and eventually breed international stars. In South Africa for instance, government there has committed funds to sporting codes, strictly for running domestic leagues. With the BNSC having just over 40 active codes, what would hurt government to set aside a fund that gives Basketball, Volleyball, Netball, Softball, Rugby, Cricket and other mass sport codes an amount of P1 million or P2 million each, strictly for league competitions? With the available facilities, at least there would be incentives for every sporting child to participate in sport and grow into money-spinning professionals. With some small codes not needing even P500 000 for an engaging year-long competition, government would not even spend over P40 million annually for this gesture.

Already a lot of money is being wasted in the bottomless pit that is Constituency Tournaments where there is no accountability, such funds that could be channeled to properly-organised sport where we could breed professionals who would then be able to sustain themselves and thereby relieve the government of the need to create jobs. Naming a sports stadium after Makwala is a noble gesture only in the short term, and it benefits nobody really. Serious incentives as enumerated by Makwala on comparison to what other countries do would go a long way in motivating every young person to work hard to make money for themselves through sport. The meagre funds given to the national sports commission should be increased to allow all their programmes to bear fruit and turn sport into a viable industry. It is all about priorities and how we intelligently allocate funds to sport.

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