LAST week Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation minister Likeleli Tampane “cancelled” the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 games which were scheduled for December 2021.
They were previously scheduled for this December but were postponed to next year on the back of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The decision to postpone the games was made during a troika minister’s virtual meeting a fortnight ago. The decision was informed by teams’ failure to adequately prepare due to the lockdown restrictions in their respective countries.
However, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) were shocked after Tampane announced the cancellation of the games.
According to the LOC chairperson, Fusi Notoane, Tampane attributed the decision to the lack of funding as the country is battling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shortly after announcing that she was cancelling the games, Tampane also cancelled the contracts of the games 36 secretariat members.
The 36 have already filed a case of unfair dismissal at the courts.
I was shocked to hear that Tampane had “cancelled” the games especially just a few days after her meeting with other ministers agreed that the games be moved to next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
When it was clear that countries were now getting adequate time to prepare, it became bizarre that the games were being cancelled completely.
I was particularly shocked because the games are run by the AUSC and the decision to cancel the games can only come from the AUSC and not one member of the region. If at all Tampane’s claims are anything to go by, she could have raised this matter in troika meeting.
Also, the games won’t be cancelled but rather, if Lesotho cannot host, another country which is ready to host the games will be given the mandate.
So, it is technically wrong to say the games have been cancelled.
If the secretariat has been fired, this means that there are possibly more dismissals on the way and unfortunately, I foresee lots of lawsuits which are going to saddle the government in the event that it loses the cases.
Apart from that, if the AUSC decides that Lesotho is forfeiting its chance of hosting the games, this will attract hefty fines. While the fine could be measly compared to the cost associated with preparing for the games, hosting the games is in the best interest of the country especially considering the chance to develop young athletes.
We can’t always be pushing children to partake in sports but at the same time deny them a chance of competing in such competitions. Worse still, the games are meant to held at home hence it would be cheaper for local athletes to participate.
I hope Tampane’s decision is based on some sound reasoning and not some political gimmick which will ultimately cost our sports.
Some will still argue that the same people who just got fired were hired on political grounds as has become the norm for Lesotho in the spirit of “jobs for the boys”. However, I think given that we were behind in terms of preparing for the games there could be a better way of handling the matter.
The ongoing lawsuit could actually deter the minister from hiring new people in the event that the games go ahead. If the plan is to hire new people later, then we are in for a serious ride.