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Lesotho, SA sports ministers pledge to cooperate

Bongiwe Zihlangu

BLOEMFONTEIN — Free State province Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for sports and recreation, Dan Khothule, says South Africa and Lesotho are currently working on a memorandum of understanding “for broad cooperation between the two countries”.
Speaking to the Sunday Express on Monday after hosting Sports Minister Thesele ’Maseribane, Khothule said South Africa is committed to helping “develop sport in Lesotho”.
He said the two ministers had discussed crafting a memorandum of understanding which could “be put into effect as early as February next year”.
“We are working on a memorandum of understanding for broad cooperation between the two countries, which will include, among others, a sports academy to meet Lesotho’s needs in terms of sport,” Khothule said.
“We will also assist in the training of sporting coaches and managers.
“There are so many ideas that we’re coming up with for the betterment of sport and developing people’s lives.”
Khothule added that as long as Lesotho was dedicated to promoting its sports industry “I undertake to do all in my power to assist”.
“This man (’Maseribane) has shown initiative and I’m going to use all the resources available to me to ensure that I help his ministry,” Khothule said.
The meeting followed an earlier meeting between South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last month where the two heads of states met to revive relations between the neighbouring countries.
Monday’s meeting was held at the Free State Sport and Recreation Centre, a high-tech facility meant to improve athletes’ potential to compete at international level.
’Maseribane visited the Bio-Mechanical Analysis Room as well as the Isokinetic Laboratory, valued at about R3 million and R15 million respectively.
The latter, has among others, devices used for the assessment of athletes’ muscle ratio to determine at what level they can participate in sport while the former has equipment to measure athletes’ force production, testing the agility of backward and forward movements as well as assessment of the genetic potential of athletes.
A similar version of the whole facility has been compressed into a tour but called the ultimate Sport Science Testing Laboratory which travels around the province scouting for sporting talent.
Also under construction is a facility for indoor netball and basketball as well as a special hall designed exclusively for martial arts, including Taekwondo.
According to Khothule, programmes at the sports centre were availed for free “but only for athletes proving excellence”.
“These facilities are for accelerated sporting programmes for athletes proving excellence, for people going for national competitions.
“It’s exclusively for the cream of the crop to win medals,” Khothule said.
’Maseribane told the media after the tour that “there’s so much work that needs to be done to improve our sport”.
“We need to restructure the department of sports. Without restructuring there’s no way that we can realise our vision for Lesotho sport,” ’Maseribane said.
“What I’ve just seen now has made me realise that sport was not taken seriously by the previous administration.
“The country does not see sport as an industry that can contribute to its economy.”
’Maseribane said the bilateral agreement will include, among others, capacity building, resource mobilisation, financial strategy and exchange programmes.
“We don’t have a department to mobilise funds currently and there are no school and community sporting programmes.
“This whole issue needs political will, nothing more and nothing less,” ’Maseribane said.
“I realise I still have a lot of convincing to do back home in terms of budgetary requirements for the coming financial year.
“I’m going to have to organise another tour of this place for all MPs to understand the required budget for the department of sports.”
The minister said Lesotho will push for the identification of individuals working in South Africa to be lured back home to develop sports.
“We need to identify those individuals but also ensure that we offer them satisfactory packages,” ’Maseribane said.

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