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Row erupts over netball tournament


Moorosi Tsiane

A bitter row has erupted between the Lesotho Netball Association (LNA) and sports-management firm, Sports 24/7 Lesotho over the funding of a tournament which had been scheduled for 11-19 October at LCS Ground in Maseru.

In addition to the tournament, the two organisations had made a verbal agreement to work together in developing netball in the country, according to Sports 24/7 Events Manager, Mpho Mahula.

Mahula told the Sunday Express that the agreement was supposed to see Sports 24/7 sourcing sponsorship on behalf of the association, starting with the 11-19 October tournament dubbed Princess Senate Netball Classics.

The tournament, whose main sponsor was expected to be the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), sought to honour Princess Senate Seeiso, who was born on 7 October 2001.

However, the event, which also sought to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, had to be cancelled at the last minute after the LNA pulled out.

Teams from South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi and hosts Lesotho had been expected to be part of the tournament.

Mahula explained: “We had a verbal agreement with the Lesotho Netball Association that we were going to source sponsorship for their programmes, as we were aware that the sport was declining and had not been that active for the past two years.

“We approached UNICEF and asked for funding and made it very clear that we did not want to be given any money ourselves but rather, we would give the organisation a list of what was needed. We wanted UNICEF to pay those bills directly because we feared that if the money was put into anybody’s account, it could be misused.

“I was therefore surprised when the LNA president, Moipone Mashale, told me that the money  would be deposited into the association’s account.

“That had not been part of our agreement, so I had to ask why. Three days before the tournament, we received a letter from the LNA informing us that they were pulling out and no longer wanted to be associated with our company. The letter indicated that the reason for the pullout was because we did not trust them.

“After the LNA pullout, we had to postpone the tournament because it could not be played under such circumstances. We are trying to communicate with the association and see if we can work something out so that we continue with the tournament this year.”

LNA president Mashale confirmed the pullout was due to the attitude of Sports 24/7 officials.

“We were left with no choice but to pull out of that competition because it was clear that Sports 24/7 officials did not trust us. A partnership should be mutual friendship, so we could no longer be partners with people who had no trust in us,” Mashale said.

“When Sports 24/7 officials approached us last year with this proposal, we, as the association, had thought this was a good initiative that would help to revive netball in our country. This was because our league has not been active for some years since we only depend on our yearly subvention from the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission, but which we have not been getting over the past two years.

“Our agreement was that Sports 24/7 was going to find sponsors for us and we would help with the technical capacity of running the tournament, and other programmes that we might be having. But UNICEF said they do not work with profit-making organisations, hence the monies had to be deposited into our account and that’s where the problem started. I will not get into details because we have already lodged a case of defamation against Sports24/7 in the courts of law.

“We have a contract with UNICEF while we had no formal agreement with Sports24/7. We are  now working directly with UNICEF in trying to revive the sport. We held a workshop last weekend for primary and high school teachers and we will continue with other programmes in our quest to improve netball in Lesotho as stipulated in our mandate.”

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