With him not throwing his hat in the ring for the upcoming Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) elections, the organisation’s president Motlhokomedi Tlhabano is leaving its presidency a happy man. The BCF elections will be held on the 31st of this month.
Tlhabano ascended to the helm of BCF in 2017 and says he is happy with what he has achieved over the past four years. This is the man who during his tenure was nominated as Sports Administrator of the Year (Botswana Sports Awards formerly known as BNSC awards) for three consecutive years in 2018, 2019 and 2020, winning the award twice (2018 and 2019).
Tlhabano also saw BCF nominated for Code of the Year twice in the past three years, winning it in 2019 and losing it to boxing in 2020. Under the stewardship of Tlhabano, local chess sensations, Besa Masaiti and Refilwe Gabatshwarwe, were voted Junior Female Sports Person for the years 2019 and 2020. Naledi Marape and Phemelo Khetho were also nominees for Sportsman and Junior Female Athlete for 2018.
But Tlhabano’s key highlight as BCF president was when he put clubs together for a successful chess league under the famous P1.1 million Debswana sponsorship, the sponsorship runs four years from 2018 to 2021, with the leading diamond company popping out about P277 000 a year . “The day we received news of the request for sponsorship being successful brought great delight to all members of the executive committee,” he said in an interview.
“The announcement to affiliates was received with as much delight. Mind you, our executive committee was also able to convince the president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, to visit Botswana in 2017. It was the first time that a sitting FIDE president visited the country.”
Having served as BCF Development Director from 2013 to 2017, Tlhabano says a lot was also achieved in development stakes even when he served as president. “Our junior teams were crowned African champions in 2017 and 2018 for the African schools individual championships, bringing home dozens of medals,” he says. “We also won the Zone 4.5 youth team event that was held in Lesotho. All these feats show that we took development seriously.”
But he did face some challenges in his tenure as BCF president, the main one being inability to attend some international events due to financial constraints. “Halting of school sports by the Ministry of Basic Education during negotiations with the sports ministry about which was the most expensive school sporting code was one of a hard pill to swallow,” he notes.
“Our backbone of development has been school sports, both at BOPSSA level and secondary school chess. We were recruiting chess kids from as young as the age of six around the country. With schools no longer participating, it did a lot of traction. There is going to be a big gap in our development room because some talent has been missed.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also spoiled Tlhabano’s tenure as BCF president. “The challenges of the pandemic included the lockdowns on sports by the government,” Tlhabano states. According to Tlhabano coaches have seen their jobs end and the kids whom they had invested much lost for fear of the pandemic or parents being broke. Sponsors too are pulling out.