Man of many hats

A story of hard work and passion

Ookeditse Malesu has held different and diverse portfolios in the sporting world.

From an athlete to a Karate senior national team captain, to a chief instructor before he ended up as the President of Botswana Karate Association, Malesu has done it all.

The 43-year-old versatile Sports Administrator has also been the Vice President of Botswana Swimming Association.

This year he had a short stint at the helm of the Botswana Football Association as its Chief Executive Officer.

After five months at BFA, Sensei Malesu left many shocked with his sudden and unexpected resignation, citing the need to focus on his construction company as his reason for his exit only for him to join the race for the upcoming Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) presidential elections soon after that.

Voice Reporter, Portia Ngwako-Mlilo had a chat with this former army officer and active sports administrator about his sporting journey so far and his campaign for the BNOC presidential position.

Q. Sir what makes you the best candidate for BNOC high position?

A. I have worked with different sporting codes, which are BNOC affiliates and I am more versatile, more knowledgeable and more experienced than the other contenders for the position.

My manifesto, which outlines my strategy for alignment, accountability, delivery and sponsorship are also solid and I must say voters are impressed with the direction, I would take this organization.

Q. What would be the major change you would make at BNOC should you win?

A. I want BNOC to respect sporting codes as their feeder. We need to close that gap between BNOC, BNSC and sporting codes and work together to develop our athletes.

There is a strategy on the table and I would hit the ground running when it comes to implementation.

We just want to reengineer the way BNOC is structured because we cannot have an association that does not have a technical development side and expect our athletes to excel and win competitions.

Technical experts would directly deal with coaches and athletes and not administrators.

Q. Do you think Botswana is doing enough to promote athletes’ welfare?

A. No, we need to get the right administrators on board and not engage people whose priority is to serve their own interest.

Imagine when there is a major event and administrator’s travel to attend that event in large numbers while relevant people like dieticians and medical doctors are left behind, which has often been the case.

This is why I am not bringing a lobby list into this campaign.

Although I am a team player, I don’t want to go into office indebted to anyone if I were to win the elections.

Q. You talked about introducing athletes’ village, why do you think it is necessary?

A. If you see the amount of money we spend when athletes are on camp in hotels and lodges you’d be shocked.

That money can be diverted, and channeled into a village where players can have more time to train and have friendly games.

We unnecessarily spend a lot of money on other people’s facilities

Q. Give us your background. When did you become an athlete?

A. I started karate when I was 13 years and I am still practicing the art.

I was also doing swimming; tennis, athletics and I played softball too, as a pitcher coached by honourable Shaw Kgathi when he was still a teacher.

I became president of karate in 2002 for four years before becoming Vice President of Swimming.

I have been into sports for more than 30 years.

Q. What made you develop interest in sports administration?

A. I have participated in different sporting codes as an athlete and became karate national team captain at some point so I had amassed leadership skills at a young age.

Karate affiliates had confidence in me and elected me to be their president.

I became a swimming coordinator at Botswana Defence Force and Botswana Swimming Association elected me to be their Vice President.

Botswana Football Association showed interest in my service and I was appointed a CEO though it was a short stint.

Q. What are some of your achievements as Karate Association President?

A. I hosted the Africa Championships, which was attended by 25 countries across the continent, and Botswana won.

After the games I was nominated to be in Africa Karate Committee as a third Vice President.

For the first time ever during my time I introduced karate awards which improved the standard of sport and our players were even listed in BNSC awards and athletes won medals at All Africa games.

I used to share the budget figures with athletes so that they understand how much the government spends on their competitions and that inspired them to up their game.

Q. Your short stay at BFA, what is it that you have learnt going forward as far as sports administration is concerned?

A. BFA is complex and highly political entity because there is money in football.

I have learnt a lot as compared to my past experience in other associations.

I would like to thank them for giving me that opportunity because I knew little about football.

Q. The BFA CEO seat seems to be a hot position, what do you think needs to be done?

A. Committee members need to support each other and respect the association president.

We should not have back stabbings and petty issues because it affects our sports development.

I think the other problem is people don’t like change and they want to do as they please which is counter productive and therefore needs to change.

There’s need for order and accountability at BFA.

Q. Off course your reason for quitting was that you want to focus on your business but there were rumours that you were pushed Is it possible you left because you were eying the BNOC presidency already?

A. Football I have realized is a creator of gossip and news for newspapers back page.

If I was pushed, I was not going to do a proper hand over and serve notice.

I have good relations with BFA and I will always assist where they need my help.

Yes developing interest in joining BNOC is another element to the story.

When you are in an environment where you cannot make new changes you quit.

I was a soldier and I know which battles to fight and which ones not to fight.

Some battles are just not worth one’s energy so I chose to put my energy where there’s value.

‘Bopodi go kgonana ba ba dinaka’

Q. Sports then and today when you were an athlete, what do you think has changed?

A. During my time as an athlete there were very few Batswana who were experienced and qualified enough to coach professional athletes.

As a result we could not qualify as many local players to compete internationally as we currently do.

Administrators then treated sports only as recreation but today we know it is business and should be seen as a chance for alternative job market.

At government level we did not have a Ministry of Sports Introducing that ministry was a good move as we have a minister who is always available to address our issues directly.

Q. Why did you quit military?

A. I believe in making a difference and taking risks because that is the only way one can grow.

I also believe in progressiveness.

At some point I realised BDF was slow for me and I needed to be more active and decided to register a construction company.

It was never easy but I had confidence in me that I will make it since I had studied construction and understood the industry well.

My first project was big and I finished it on time, which boosted my morale.

Q. You have a hectic schedule, juggling business and sports when do you have time for your family?

A. I am a lucky man to have a supportive wife. When I travel for business where I can afford I travel with her.

I go with my family to church every Sunday. She understands my passion to spend time making a difference in other people’s lives.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

A. I tam inspired by people with integrity. I am actually inspired by principles not by a person.

I believe in honesty and openness.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

A. I’m taking my wife out to a movie, just to love and appreciate her being with me through thick and thin.

I will also meet some of the delegates to continue with my campaigns.

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