Local sport administrators and stakeholders have strongly criticised an announcement by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, in his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA), that P50 million will be used to build 10 community sports facilities around the country to enhance sport development and nurture talent at grassroots level.
Masisi said government will, starting in 2019, construct community mini-stadia in Moshupa, Kanye, Mmadinare, Tsabong, Rakops and Good Hope amongst others. Although Masisi's announcement came as good news, particularly to communities where the stadia are earmarked to be built, some sport personalities and administrators believe that the facilities will not address the challenges currently be-devilling sport development. They suggest that the funds should instead be directed to other priority areas and initiatives such as promoting schools of excellence.
Discussing the topic, "The proposed 10 community sports facilities: A key to Athletic Talent Development", on Wednesday, panelists took turns to punch holes in a decision that Masisi must have thought is just what the doctor ordered. He was wrong, they said. The panelists included sport administrators Kitso Kemoeng -former Chief Executive Officer of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), Tsoseletso Magang -BNSC Board Member and founder of Monthly Discussions with Tsosi, Botswana Basketball Association (BBA) President Boineelo Hardy and Dr Tshephang Tshube -a University of Botswana (UB) sport academic.
Dr Tshube said the SONA did not live up to expectations in terms of sport development despite the promise to build 10 mini-stadia, arguing that the infrastructure might be good but their construction disregards the important aspect of talent identification in sport development. Therefore, he said, such development speaks more of recreational sport which is totally different from talent development. The UB Don opined that if government seriously wants to develop sport from grassroots level, plans/ decisions should deliberately target schools as the foundation for such and promote centers of excellence.
For her part, Magang expressed concern that a lot of issues with regards to sport were not covered in the SONA. She said the construction of mini-stadia will not give any hope to the youth who are facing serious unemployment challenges. She also reiterated the need to promote the concept of entrepreneurship amongst sport, which remains a grey area and a gap that needs to be addressed. “I was shocked when the President announced that the P50 million will be used to build more stadia. I had expected that it be directed to other areas of sport development. We have many soccer pitches around the country that are not fully utilized, why are we building more of them? These developments only cater for football while other sporting codes, which are doing well and need more investment such as athletics, are being sidelined,” complained Magang, herself a retired runner.
Political mileage has also been suggested as one of the reasons why the Masisi administration decided to build more 'sports complexes' at the expense of other aspects of sport development. The observation was made by Malebogo Hardy, citing the use of terms such as community and recreation in the SONA when dealing with sport development. She bemoaned lack of consultation with the sporting fraternity to appreciate their needs to help develop local sport. Hardy suggested that the funds could be used to upgrade existing facilities to make them world class, thus eliminating the need to send athletes to high performance centres in other countries that comes at a huge cost.
For his part former BNSC Chief Executive Officer Kitso Kemoeng differed with other panelists, saying the mini-stadia can help communities to generate income if well utilized. He, however, decried lack of consultation with stakeholders in sport. Further, Kemoeng also questioned the rationale used to select locations where stadia will be built. “There is an issue on the selected areas. Why Mmadinare, Bobonong or Moshupa and not Mochudi, Ramotswa or Tlokweng? This might have some element of politicization and it is very important for the government to try to balance the allocation of developments. They should not be concentrated on one side of political boundary,” he cautioned.