International players threaten Lesotho games boycott
MASERU – The national chess federation delayed for almost two months to pay winners of the January BMI Lesotho Open Chess Championship their prize money, with controversial president, Tšeliso Motloheloa, at the centre of the financial indignity.
Motloheloa has for some time now been in the firing line with accusations of mismanagement from fellow federation administrators, and the latest troubles emanating from the Blue Mountain Inn (BMI) championship games is just an addition to a long list of blunders. Apart from local players the tourney brought into action foreign stars from South Africa, Zimbabwe, eSwatini, Botswana and Zambia.
Public Eye can reveal that it was only this week following lengthy spats that the winners of the championship received their prize money and that this has since borne tension between some of the competitors and the Chess Federation of Lesotho (CFL). Some of the body’s officials are even publicly denouncing Motloheloa.
Not only are the local players are unhappy that the federation owed them their prize money, but also foreign players that this paper spoke to who were in Lesotho for the tourney went as far as threatening to shun all future chess tournaments organized by the local chess federation.
Botswana international chess player, Kuda Bayani, said the most infuriating part of the entire CFL story is that they were promised coming into the games, with the federation guaranteeing “we will get our money within a period of at least after two weeks after the tournament.” “It’s so unfortunate that Lesotho publicized prizes on their invitation and then after the tournament there is no money at prize giving ceremony,” said Bayani in an interview with Public Eye last week Friday.
“They said they would give players their money after two weeks but it never happened.” Bayani further said: “Too bad, we will not attend Lesotho events anymore.”
Public Eye has established that Motloheloa reacted to the complaints of the players in a WhatsApp group of local chess players, announcing he has noted with concern “arrogant comments made on Facebook about the championship prize money.”
“Fellow chess players, I have noted with concern the careless, desperate and arrogant comments made by Mr Monaheng Motlomelo (one of the local players who competed in the championship) in the group and on our fb (Facebook) page about prize moneys of the 2020 BMI Lesotho Open and the upcoming Zonal event,” wrote Motloheloa.
He continued, “fellow players, in the current world economy and Lesotho sports climate, it is not so easy to obtain sponsors. For, example, we know that CM Tokelo Klaas is still owed M5 000 which he won in the 2019 LASA Awards by LSRC (Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission).” Motloheloa further made a point of reference that it has taken over a year for the Namibian Chess Federation to pay Theko Khanyapa (local chess player) his prize money – which he won in 2018.
He also wrote: “Compatriots, if the LSRC, an institution which is established by law to be financed by the Lesotho government is struggling financially and has debts which are overdue by years, imagine how much difficult it is for national federations.” Motloheloa said the CFL, under his leadership, is committed to developing chess in the country and delivering on promises and commitments made.
“We are very much aware of the need to pay prize moneys of events to winners timely as a way of encouraging participation. Pursuant to this, I am in constant contact with the winners of the event to update them and assure them that their prize moneys are on the way and will be paid soonest,” he said.
Notwithstanding Bayani’s comments to this paper, Motlohela wrote in the again in the same WhatsApp group that “fortunately the winners, especially foreign players, are aware that things like this happen and are understanding.” “They are also aware that we are credible leaders and will not be misled by desperate shenanigans of Mr Motlomela and his cohorts.
Lastly, let me extend a fair warning to Mr Motlomelo that while he has a right to freedom of speech, he does not have a right to tarnishing the image of our federation in public in the pretence (pretense) of facts,” said the president.
He said Motlomelo was misled by disrespecting the good name of the CFL and its sponsors “ahead of his desperate and selfish motives of seeing himself and his pack on board a flight to Olympiads.” “Otherwise we would have to hold him accountable, which we all do not want to see,” Motlohela said.
Motlomelo has requested not react extensively to the president’s allegations, but pointed out to Public Eye that there is truth to the paper’s findings. He revealed since the jostling within the federation started been threatened regarding the same issue. “I have been threatened regarding this issue, so since I am one of the people who plan to contest for the coming CFL elections to improve chess in the country, I would rather not comment on the issue in detail but what you have found out is all true,” said Motlomelo.
This is while other top chess officials accused Motlohelo of deliberately not calling an elective conference despite the fact that they are supposed to have held such a conference weeks ago. “We are mired in problems in the chess federation and our main problem is the president,” said a source within the chess body.
“Apart from failing to pay the winners of the Lesotho Chess Open, he is deliberately not calling an elective conference.” The source said in this regard, they would have to follow the constitution to the letter and call an elective conference themselves.
The Lesotho Open Chess Championship that took place from January 31 to February 2 was divided into four sections, with prizes broken down as follows; Prestige Section (M5 000), Open Section (M1 500), Ladies’ Section (M1 700) and the Development Section (M800).
Motloheloa has previously been accused of misusing federation funds from an international chess federation to purchase a vehicle for himself. The information was later leaked, allegedly by two of his colleagues, and the car was confiscated by the DCEO while Motloheloa was hauled before court.
His two colleagues, vice president Lesaoana Mohale, and secretary general Mokone Moshe, were blamed for the and eventually suspended together with Motloheloa. But about a year ago, the trio was reinstated to their positions after CFL members reportedly decided to bury the hatchet.