COMPLIMENTS of the New Year dear reader. I hope you had a restful and safe festive season.
We are starting this New Year on a disappointing note after hearing Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation Minister, Likeleli Tampane’s statements regarding the senior national soccer team.
Tampane was on national television last week in a report about soccer tournaments held in her Senqu constituency last December. In the report, she then claimed that she would not support the senior national soccer team, Likuena, if there were no players from her constituency among the side’s ranks.
“These players are future Likuena players. And as minister of Sport, I will consider myself incompetent if players from my constituency cannot play for Likuena.
“I will not support Likuena if players from my place are not part of the team.”
And this week, the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) rightly said it was miffed by the comments.
I hold no brief for the minister but for me, this is one of the lowest that a public official can go. Tampane is a government minister who should be adept at public speaking. That she is minister responsible for sport, it is expected that she knows the ins and outs regarding selection of national teams.
It is also expected that she knows that government officials are not allowed to meddle in LeFA affairs.
LeFA this week articulated these expectations in simple and understandable language. But even then, it seems the minister is already spoiling for a fight threatening: “I am not aware of the statement and it is difficult to respond to it but if LeFA has anything they want to discuss (with me) they know I am always available. If they wanted any clarity regarding my statement, they could have approached me”.
“Now that they went on to release a statement without seeking any clarity, that means that there is a fight and I am ready for it.”
It remains unknown where the “fight” she refers to is coming from. The LeFA statement does not insult the minister but simply states facts.
I perfectly understand that it is election campaigning season and politicians tell all kinds of lies to potential voters to improve their chances of getting elected.
However, there must be a limit to the lies. Electioneering must be intelligent. Propaganda must evolve. The time for passive voters is long gone.
One may even argue that voters were never passive even when they could not comment and give feedback like they do now, thanks to social media. This because the vote, even back in the bygones, was still a response.
And if Tampane, and any other politician thinks so lowly of their constituents that they can accept any kind of hogwash said at rallies and other campaigning platforms, then they could be in for a bumpy ride.
Voters are not naïve and even if they were, reckless statements like the one Tampane made in December are dangerous. They create a legitimate expectation. What will she do if the same audience challenges her about the claims next time she faces them because it is a fact that she does not have a say on who is selected into the national team? What new lie will she tell?
Given, not everyone is eloquent but public officials must know that even when its election campaigning time, they must never say what they do not mean. In this day and age of social media, anything said anywhere can be broadcast to millions of people in seconds. There is seldom time to retract or correct a statement.
Even when you do, the damage would long have been done. People cannot “unhear” what they have already heard. What you intended to say may not always be the most important takeaway from a message but what the receiver of the information understands could prove disastrous.
That aside, Minister Tampane must be careful how she handles sporting matters. It does not serve her, neither does it serve the people she leads to fight with LeFA and any other sporting association. She leads a multi-faceted ministry, easily one with access to the largest groupings like sports, gender groups and the youth.
Improving her relations with groupings and associations could benefit her and her party too.