Moorosi Tsiane/Pascalinah Kabi
THE Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Mahali Phamotse, has lamented the poor sports administration as the country prepares to host the Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) 2020 Region 5 Games and the African Youth Games which are expected to be hosted in 2022.
In a recent interview with the Sunday Express, Phamotse expressed her worries about poor administration saying it is one of the factors hindering the professionalism of sports in the country.
Asked about her plans for the ministry to come up with a sports policy and professionalise the sector, Phamotse said before one talks about professionalising sports, the administrations need to get their act together first.
“When the administration of sports is so poor, it is not possible for me to even think about professionalising any sport,” Phamotse said.
“So, from where I am standing, the most important thing that we need to do, which I raised the very first day I came here (to the sports ministry), is that we need to improve the administration.
“I am working with the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) to correct this matter because sports administration determines the fate of sports in the country. We have our own sports policy, which I believe should have been out by now. I will make inquiries on the matter but you cannot talk about professionalising sports when the administration of sports is so poor.
“Horning the talent of a player without correcting the problem at the root is useless because when that player feels intimated by the system; feels unappreciated by the system; when businesses and the media do not have interest in the fraternity, it would be a waste of time. Administration is key in every activity; whether it is government, sports or everything. So, at the moment, we are working hard to put our house in order regarding the administration of sports in the country; as well as doping and all other aspects of good sports administration. We have held workshops to train administrators. I would not respond to this question without raising the issue of people in sports administration working in isolation.”
The former education minister said one other issue negatively affecting the growth of Lesotho sports is the lack of unity among associations.
“The LNOC, the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC) and the associations are all operating from in silos just as the players. They are all fighting among themselves and I was greeted with this situation when I came here. So, I am working tirelessly to correct this, continuously telling them that I am the minister of sports not of those different corners. I have to ensure that there are strings connecting each and every sports body and they should work harmoniously.
“I have told them to sit down and sort themselves out. That is where I am now and they know that I will not tolerate poor sports administration. I have already told them to stop demanding money for every sitting. They will only get sitting allowances for their single monthly meetings but that does not mean they will get allowances each time I call them for a meeting.
“I am trying to correct mistakes of the past here. I have never demanded extra payments for coming to work at 5am. The situation is so dire that even some players are referred to as those of the LNOC, instead of Lesotho players as should be the case. I need us to build a poll of team which every single association or body will pick from when going for international competitions. This will give players more exposure. We should not be owning players. That is not going to happen under my watch.
“This is one of the things that I am dealing with but it is not so easy especially when people are used to staying in their comfort zones. It is difficult to see light when I say ‘let us all have one basket and share limited resources’.
“You know there are some situations where individual athletes come straight to me to ask for financial assistance because of poor sports administration. I am experiencing such things but I believe with the new LSRC committee, things will get easier. Not that the former committee was difficult to work with but it takes time to find a common ground when you find people already in the office. I still worked well with the former committee except that there is always protocol which at times becomes counterproductive.”
Phamotse, who is also the secretary general of the Alliance for Democrats (AD) which is part of the four-party coalition government urged politicians to stop using sports for their own political gain.
“Administrators will understand why it is so important for us to ensure that every sport is competitive instead of using them for political mileage. Whether it is horse riding or something else, we will not be using them for political mileage.
“It is so unfortunate that horse riding has been used to campaign for elections. Yes, we all want to win elections but the primary objective should be “what impact does that does the competition has on the economy of the host constituency”? Have they benefitted? Where do we need to improve?
“However, right now we are in an embarrassing state where sports has been turned into a political activity. Yes, sports is a political activity, we cannot deny that but it should be inclusive of every politician and player,” said Phamotse.
Phamotse said, to ensure that there is no misuse of public funds at the expense of the upcoming sporting events, the ministry of sports has engaged other ministries to assist in the planning with the communications minister Morena Thesele Maseribane chairing the ministerial committee.
“This is not the ministry’s assignment alone. We have included so many ministries in the planning and I am not even the chairperson of the ministerial committee that was set up by the cabinet. This was done to ensure that I am not solely overseeing this project because when you are alone, certain things end up slipping through your fingers. Honourable Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Thesele Maseribane is the chairperson for these games. We had our first meeting on Monday where he called all ministers involved, and told us that we need to work hard to ensure that we do not experience any problems.
“I am not going to be alone on the procurement of all equipment and other services. Ntate Thesele will be guiding the whole process. Ministers and officers of different ministries will also be involved. Public Services, Transport, Water, Energy, Health and other services will spearheading procurement for related services; ours will be working on the stadiums and preparing players.
“We want to concentrate on what we know best. We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where we are procuring health services or engaging unqualified people in fields that we are not capable of like transport. This is a national activity and we have brought all ministries together to ensure that all Basotho are proud of this event. For the first time, I would like government to be proud of this event,” Phamotse said.