At the age of 33, Keorapetse Setlhare is the youngest President of a Sports Association in Botswana.
In February, he became the President of Botswana Tertiary Students Sports Association (BOTESSA) – the latest honour in a decorated administrative career.
In 2010 and 2011, Setlhare was part of the Local Organising Committee when Botswana hosted the COSAFA Games.
He was also one of the organisers for the Youth Africa Games before joining the Private Tertiary Institution as their President in 2012.
Setlhare initially joined BOTESSA in the role of Vice President Technical before assuming the association’s head position after Hebert Letsebe resignation earlier this year due to medical reasons.
In his younger days, the Lesenepole-native was a talented footballer, excelling in defence.
He was also a promising sprinter but a potential career in athletics was cruelly cut short when he broke his arm.
Happily married, today Setlhare is heavily involved in community projects and spends numerous weekends running coaching clinics in Block 9 and Kgale View – an initiative sponsored by his employer, Botho University, where he works as a Student Services Team Leader.
Voice reporter Portia Mlilo caught up with the sports administrator to chat about his time as BOTESSA boss to date.
Q. What does BOTESSA do?
A. Our mandate is to run tertiary sports in our country.
We have about 32 affiliates, private and public institutions.
We have three brackets: A – Colleges, B – Universities and private institutions and C – Technical Colleges.
Brigades have their own sports association but we are in negotiations to partner with them.
Q. You have been in the presidential position for almost seven months now. How would you describe your journey?
A. It was easy to adapt because I was part of the system as the Vice President Technical assisting Letsebe.
BOTESSA is a group code so it is quite demanding.
One of the challenges we had as a committee was that we found ourselves in debts after hosting the CUCSSA games.
Through my leadership and of course the help of other executive members we worked very hard to clear those debts.
We engaged all our key stakeholders, MYSC, BNSC and our affiliates to see how we can settle the debts.
I had to deal with the pressure from the media, appearing in newspapers for the wrong reasons but we survived.
Just recently, BNSC wrote a correspondent listing their affiliates in financial good standings and we were part of it.
Q. How did the association end up in debt over the CUCSSA games?
A. Sometimes in sports we learn the hard way.
Our budget for the games was P5 million but we managed to raise only P3 million.
Some of the countries brought a lower number of athletes as opposed to the numbers of those who registered.
We signed contracts and paid in advance.
Angola did not come at all and we had paid for other services like meals!
Q. In 2017, the association reviewed and established a new strategy. How is the implementation going?
A. Yes we have a four-year strategy.
The association leadership, through the assistance of BNSC, did the situational analysis looking at the areas where we were not performing well and mapping a way forward.
One of our plans is to be Federation of African Universities (FASO) and FISO affiliate.
Currently University of Botswana is an affiliate of these two bodies.
BOTESSA recently acquired full membership of FASO, which will create a platform for all Universities of Botswana for their athletes to participate in large numbers.
In November we will be going to Napoli to get full membership of FISO.
One of our strategies was to have a representation in regional committee and last year our Treasurer was elected for CUCCSA treasurer position during the Annual General Meeting for the first time in our history.
That position was held by a South African for the past 15 years!
We managed to secure P3 million sponsorship from First National Bank Botswana, which is also part of our strategy.
Q. Other than participation for athletes, what are some of the benefits of being a member of FISO and FASO?
A. Our athletes will get exposed to bigger competitions and get more experience.
There are also benefits like coaching clinics, administration courses that are funded by these federations.
This will also give us a better chance to host international university games.
Q. And how does the FNBB sponsorship help as far as the association’s mandate is concerned?
A. We need to ensure that they get value for their money.
We are engaging them to see if we are in line with the target we set.
The deal is helping to increase our participation in sports and we are very grateful.
For the first time through this sponsorship we were able to host awards for athletes, coaches and officials.
FNBB sponsorship is left with one-and-a-half years and we need to attract more sponsors.
For you to attract sponsors you need to ensure that you are transparent and accountable as leaders.
Q. What are some of the plans you have in place to empower athletes?
A. We should not forget that there is life after sports.
We are engaging our stakeholders like Department of Tertiary Education Fund (DTEF), as well as our affiliates to get scholarships for our athletes.
When we were at Napoli recently we engaged countries like USA and others to see how we can partner so that they give our athletes scholarships.
Botswana’s sports and education ministry policies currently in place are not supporting our athletes.
Athletes who fail their Form 3 or 5 have their sports careers cut short.
We need to find scholarships for them so that they can have access to proper facilities and professional coaches.
Our mandate is supposed to be beyond organising games.
We went for FISO games two months back and coaches from international universities were impressed by their performance.
We are not only focusing on athletes, we have training workshops for our officials and coaches.
Q. What are some of the challenges faced by the association?
A. The major one is that no ministry wants to own us.
When we go to Ministry of Sports they send us to the Tertiary Ministry who send us back.
When we took athletes to FISO games we really struggled but through the help of Minister Thapelo Olopeng and the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, we managed to send a few athletes.
Botho University and Botswana Accountancy College also paid expenses for their athletes.
Other challenges are that during our games some athletes will be writing examinations.
We recently had a retreat for our stakeholders’ leadership and we are trying to balance the academic and sports calendar.
This also affects our national teams because our athletes are part of them.
If BQA, HRDC, Institutions can value sport we would be able to produce well-rounded graduates.
We have many graduates sitting home unemployed and we have quality athletes like Baboloki Thebe, Onkabetse Nkobolo, Thatayaone Kgamanyane, Nijel Amos, Isaac Makwala, Amantle Montsho and many other earning a living from sports.
Q. BOTESSA won the group code award at this year’s BNSC awards. What did this mean to you?
A. This award is won by a group code that applies good principles of sports governance in all the areas in terms of being accountable and transparent. I.e. Are you on the books with BNSC? Are you able to roll out the plan you have as an association?
You need to produce quality athletes, train coaches and participate and competing in major activities.
This is a motivation on us to work harder.
Our PRO was among the nominees for the administrator of the year so I believe we are doing something right.
Q. Who is your inspiration?
A. I am inspired by many sports leaders like Ashford Mamelodi, Kitso Kemoen, Sonnyboy Sethibe and former Township Rollers coach, Lefty Ntseane.
I have learnt a lot from these leaders.
Q. And finally, Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. There is a football tournament at the stadium so I will be attending it with my wife.
Sunday I will be going to church.