Poor AUSC Games preps a big worry

With two months to go to the regional tourney

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – Team Lesotho’s readiness as hosts for the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games remains doubtful – with two months to go to the regional tournament. The AUSC Games are pencilled for December. Public Eye can reveal that the Lesotho Boxing Association (LeBA) and the Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) are greatly dissatisfied with what they call shabby preparations for the games.

LeBA Public Relations Officer, Rethabile Ntiea, who three weeks ago expressed hope that his association will have by now managed to prepare its boxers for the competition is singing a different tune. Ntiea has told this publication their preparations are low-spirited. “We are troubled as LeBA to realise that sports are not a priority in the country,” said Ntiea in an interview with Public Eye. “We always submit quotations to be financed for our camping sessions, but all has been in vain as the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC) keeps on telling us that there is no money to fund the camps.”

Ntiea, who is also the team manager for Lesotho’s Region 5 Youth Games boxing team, said they had planned for the boxing team to be in camp in March. He said after the initial camp plans failed when they could not secure financing, they assumed it may have been due to Covid-19 pressure on the part of the LSRC.

Ntiea continued that: “We thought the main reason was the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we later requested for the LSRC to finance the team’s camp which was planned for June when schools were on recess and the Committee agreed. But that has not happened to date.”

“We are still waiting for them to give us the go-ahead.” Ntiea added that all they want is for the boxers to start camp so that the association is able select boxers who will represent the country at the upcoming AUSC Games.

“Following this delay the LSRC officials came up with an excuse that schools had reopened, they proposed that we should hold weekend camps and as a result we had to make new plans to have our boxers from Friday until Sunday; but once again when it was about time to conduct such camps there was no money. This also happened during the independence holidays, after we agreed with them about having a camp they told us again that there’s still no money.”

Ntiea said LeBA had, at the time, been granted use of the Makoanyane Barracks half by the Lesotho Defence Force to enable the boxers to hold sparring sessions; but he added that LeBA could not afford even transport for the boxers to the gym and back home. They could not even afford to provide them with food after their sparring. “This situation has caused us unnecessary tension with the boxers’ parents, the boxers have to come to the training sessions using their own money while some come on foot. In the end we fail to even provide them with food.

Here we are talking about young boxers who are still at school and who are preparing to write examinations.” Lesotho athletics president, Tšeliso Pheta, also confirmed the country’s poor preparation for the upcoming Region 5 Youth Games. Pheta claimed that the LSRC has always made empty promises.

And according to Public Eye inquiries track and field athletes are similarly not ready as a final team to represent the country in the regional games is yet to be selected. But unlike in boxing, the FAL had already selected a team, but found after that that age restrictions for athletics had changed from the usual Under-20 to Under-18 – forcing a change of the selected squad. “There is no progress at all,” said Pheta in an interview with Public Eye.

“They (Team Lesotho technical officials) last said they will organise a two weeks’ camp for all of the athletes we had selected before to enable us to make a fresh selection…but this has not happened until today,” Pheta revealed. He further said: “There is no explanation. All they made were empty promises.” Team Lesotho Chef de Mission, Caswell Moru, on the other hand told Public Eye that the biggest problem they have encountered has always been money.

The government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, is as usual expected to fund the games. The Sports Commission, being the right arm of the ministry and the government gets financial support from the two; either in a form of subvention for local sports associations or funding for international competitions. But Moru, who is also the Sports Commission’s Vice Secretary, said they were yet to receive the Region 5 Games funding from the ministry.

“We haven’t got any funding until now and so we can’t afford to support athletes’ training programmes,” said Moru. “The little money which the Commission had was used to support some of those training programmes but now our coffers are empty.” Moru said the funding for the hosting of the games was supposed to be M30 million. He said it was initially expected into LSRC’s account in July but that did not happen until now.

“Because we are using students, we were targeting to have camps in July during schools vacation but that did not happen because of there was no money. “As a result, we have changed our initial plan and decided to have our camps on weekends, and our target this time around was to use the Independence holidays but again we could not because there is still no money no money.”   This while Moru also said the initial M30 million promised funding would no longer be the same.

He said they were told that they would now get M6 million in segments for three months, which still has not happened two months before the games. The Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation’s Chief Information Officer, Maqalika Matsepe, admitted that there was a delay in releasing the money to LSRC but said it was because of the latter’s budget which was too high.

“They could have already get it by now had it not because their exceeding budget,” said Matsepe. “Their budget was more than what we had. They presented a budget of M25 million while the money that was there was M22 million.” However, Matsepe said on Wednesday that preparations for the money to be transferred into the LSRC’s account were in advanced stage after his ministry had just received it from the Ministry of Finance.

Matsepe said initially the overall budget of the games was M280 million before it was later reduced to M252 million. He said after the overall budget was reduced, the initial M30 million budget for the games was also reduced to M25 million. “From the overall budget (of M280 million), M250 million was for the infrastructure and M30 million was for the games. So when the overall budget was reduced, the games budget was also reduced.”

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