QUEEN MOSARWE AND BONGANI MALUNGA
Judo athletes and former officials cite allegations of maladministration, corruption and interference by Botswana Judo Federation (BJF) president Estony Hattingh as the main cause of their disgruntlement and also the problems that will eventually cripple down the sporting code should the problems be not given the due attention. The athletes state that they have, for the longest time, raised their concerns with relevant bodies and that no action has been taken.
In a letter that was handed to the Office of the President, where they were adviced to approach the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the athletes stated that their complaints, which they say have in the past been forwarded to parent bodies Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) are yet to be addressed.
The letter outlines the key problems as being, mismanagement of funds, no qualified national coaches for elite athletes, explaining that they (elites) have knowledge of the sport that surpasses that of the coaches. They further state that there was no training program, no judo development programe, coaches have no first aid training and that athletes travel to tournaments without medical personnel.
“We have now taken upon ourselves to come to the government to lodge out complaints and kindly ask for change because we feel we have lost confidence in the institution representing government, in this case the BNSC,” the letter reads.
Furthermore, the athletes say the were also worried by the national team selection, which they said was based on history and not current performance; “this causes conflict among athletes and also brings down performances as active athletes are always left behind during selections,” explaining that they were usually given a week to prepare for competitions.
In this case the BJF president has been accused of handpicking athletes to represent Botswana during regional or international tournaments, they have stated that representation is not on merit but rather based on Hattingh’s preference.
The athletes also cite irregularities when they travel to represent the country. “Sometimes we are accommodated in people’s house, where we sleep on the floor; we walk or transport ourselves between activities which we feel is not safe,” adding “the meals that are sometimes provided are substandard, there is no proper meals organized for our team. We are expected to use our allowances to buy ourselves food.”
According to the athletes, they hardly meet or have formal team preparation with team management, “ we end up missing basic information like weigh which is important for the tournament, and we are always rescued by athletes of other countries .”
In the same letter, they state that they are sometimes surprised that there would be more officials than athletes attending an international tournament, citing an example they say happened when they had traveled to Swaziland last year.
The team of four traveled in the Zambian bus, which had passed through en route to Swaziland after they heard that the BNSC bus they were to use had since been canceled. “ The executive members had flown to Swaziland , we were at the mercy of the Zambian team’s programme, even the seating was uncomfortable,” the athletes stated.
The BJF has dismissed many of the above mentioned claims in a response to a questionnaire from Gazette Sport.
On coaches and the national team
“We do not have coaches for the national team since we don’t have a national team. In 2009, BJF, had only 2 qualified coaches in Botswana being myself and another foreigner. Given this I put in place a coach education programme and had 13 level 1 citizen coaches trained. Nine of them also did an Olympic Solidarity course and 6 of them continued with a high performance coaching course at the Free State Sport Science Institute in South Africa. 3 of these qualified coaches have now moved on to do the IJF coaching course. We have additionally enrolled one senior Athlete to train for the IJF course in 2016. In addition to this coaches we also have support from Japan through their Volunteer Program to place coaches who are appointed to work with us for a period of two years. We currently have one senior coach who has also joined the 3 qualified above. We do not have a national team we have senior athletes from different clubs whom depending on the competitions they qualify for can be elected into the National team,” an official correspondence from the BJF stated.
They also confirmed that the coaches they send on international assignments have undergone first aid training. Hattingh also denied hand picking athletes by stating that the team is selected by a committee made up of coaches and executive committee members.
On the Zambia bus trip
“This was a cooperation between two federations. The BJF management agreed to use the Zambia bus,” they briefly stated.
On the team’s “uncomfortable” journey to Swaziland
“To our knowledge the discomfort issue received as feedback from the team managers and coaches including the athlete’s captain was on the delay to depart from Gaborone. Which we have taken as a lesson for the future in partnerships of this nature,” BJF responded.
Why do national team athletes not have a proper training facility?
“As mentioned above we don’t have national team. We have senior athletes and indeed we don’t have proper training facilities. However have been working with BNSC to use the available resources at our disposal. Consequently we have for some time been making applications to different bodies to help us build a national dojo. We are happy that very soon we will have a training facility thanks to Japanese government and IJF,” they continued.
Hattingh’s credibility questioned
Multiple allegations of intimidation have been levelled against Hattingh, she has been accused of forming dummy clubs in the run up to elections in order to garner more votes, a claim she strongly denies. International Judo Fedetaion rules stipulate that presidents of federations should be locals, however, Hattingh is not a citizen of Botswana.
There are allegations that she is working illegally in Botswana, that she have acquired a work permit which she also uses to work at a private company, she refused to comment on the rumour.