Palace Politics is described by The Free Dictionary as ‘the relationships, interactions, designs and inner workings of the top members of a political organisation … used especially in relation to internal rivalry, plotting, double crossing etc.’ Without doubt, this definition should equally apply to sport and specifically football. At the centre of palace politics in football is the desire and ability by those who wield sheer power and influence to determine the trajectory football follows. We have seen how powerful the immediate past supremo of the Confederation of African Football Issa Hayatou was. During his tenure which lasted for 29 years, it is safe to conclude that there were many casualties along the way. It is my considered view therefore, and erring on the side of caution, that palace politics more than anything else, could have decided the fate of Matshidiso Sexton Kowa’s tenure as its Technical Director.
While I am not sure that the job of Technical Director at Botswana Football Association (BFA) is solely reserved for citizens, one would cautiously and predictably assume that this should be the case for obvious reasons. It is against this background that I pose the question: Is the BFA saying Matshidiso Sexton Kowa is not good enough to be its Technical Director. It is common cause that Rre Kowa’s tenure at the BFA as Technical Director ended around June this year when he was recalled, according to sports reports at the time, from the COSAFA tournament in Polokwane, South Africa. Such reports suggested that he was informed on arrival that his relationship with the BFA ended at that point. Couldn’t the BFA have let him to conclude the COSAFA assignment since the Zebras were still in the tournament one could ask? This should suggest if this recall is true that the BFA was more than eager and determined to see his back. The position of Technical Director in the football arena and generally speaking, is to develop young citizens who exhibit some potential to become good and competitive footballers such that over and above this realisation, the quality and competitiveness of the league also becomes attractive and good to the eye. But who is Matshidiso Sexton Kowa one may ask?
Anybody who has followed Botswana football would without doubt be very familiar with the fact that Rre Kowa’s name has been synonymous with football for as long as they could remember. He is one of those who actively took part in the formation of the now struggling but previously formidable and feared Mochudi Centre Chiefs which contributed some of its finest players, including himself, to the Zebras; has produced countless football players like Mogakolodi Ngele; has coached and played for the Zebras; is a holder of German Football Federation A licence acquired in 1979 let alone other equally important sporting accolades like being inducted in the Botswana Hall of Fame in 2016 and being awarded the Presidential Order of Meritorious Service in 2012. By virtue of the foregoing, Rre Kowa would be better placed and sufficiently informed about the challenges facing the development of Botswana football and solutions thereto. Recognising and perhaps accepting that the BFA is always complaining about the lack of financial and other resources, Rre Kowa would as a patriot, become cheap to the BFA in terms of foregoing some other perks that go with the position like accommodation and transport costs which would not be a subject of discussion for somebody who originates from outside the country. In any event and like other compatriots, people like Rre Kowa have used personal costs of great value to advance football at the detriment of their families’ wellbeing. It is a well-known fact that Botswana organisations are always too happy to pay outsiders high salaries and perks than they would to citizens. Why then would the BFA elect to dispose of the rich and willing local football talent?
A context is important and that is that the BFA falls under the portfolio of the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture. In this regard, it would be expected or assumed that the BFA would as a matter of protocol or courtesy, inform the Minister about appointments such as that of a Technical Director. Precisely because of its critical importance to football development. When the contract of Rre Kowa was not extended when it expired in June 2018 and particularly that he is a Motswana with colourful football credentials as indicated above, one imagines that the Minister, pursuant to his oversight duty over the BFA in the interests of sports in general and football development in particular, would have demanded why a Motswana’s contract was not extended. That is, demonstrable and compelling reasons for deficiencies in his performance if any, would be provided for example, as those that rendered the non-extension of his contract. For example, it was reported that Botswana and other African countries voted for the North American countries of the United States, Canada and Mexico at the 68th FIFA Congress in Russia in June this year to organise and host the 2026 World Cup against a fellow African country, Morocco. The BFA would have been directed through a political decision not to vote for Morocco. The point I am making is that cognisant of the fact that a Motswana who is credited with a good and proven talent of football development and was on the verge of being replaced, wouldn’t it have been the duty of the Minister to intervene in the interests of Botswana football underpinned by patriotism? I must state that the intervention of the Minister in Rre Kowa’s case wouldn’t be viewed as political interference because if this is the case, the same should be said about the Morocco and other such issues.
Organisations, be they political parties, trade unions and other social groupings have their own fair share of palace politics which it could be argued, stall their development in one form or the other. In the context of palace politics generally speaking, there will be individuals whose vocabulary is anchored around doing the right things for the organisation in terms of accountability, transparency and forthrightness while others would be anchored around self-preservation and self-centredness. Put differently, once you speak truth to power wherever and whatever the organisation, you are almost certain to suffer the consequences. It may very well be the case in the subject matter as indicated above. In the process and like I have alluded to above, development of Botswana football becomes the biggest casualty.
It is highly self-defeating and hypocritical that Botswana and the BFA could celebrate Matshidiso Sexton Kowa’s football achievements and credentials to the point of him being awarded the Presidential Order of Meritorious Service yet he is not good enough to be the Technical Director of Botswana football. My view is premised purely on the fact that his contract was not extended-an indication of a vote of no confidence in him. I am not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that just because Rre Kowa is a Motswana automatically bestows on him the exclusive right to the position. My argument is: did he talk uncomfortable truth to power whereupon palace politics was set in motion to be the convenient and ultimate arbiter? Were circumstances during his tenure conducive to what labour law describes as constructive dismissal? That is, even if he had continued, would such circumstances have rendered him to succeed in football development? Food for thought!