GENDER, Youth, Sport and Recreation minister Kabelo Mafura’s appointment was received with mixed emotions by the sports fraternity with the majority of the view that he was not the right person for the ministry that has faced several challenges over the years.
Mafura was appointed in the aftermath of last month’s snap elections which ushered in a four party coalition government headed by All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane. The other coalition partners are the Alliance for Democrats, the Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
Many had expected to see the return of BNP leader, Morena Thesele Maseribane who presided over the ministry during Dr Thabane’s first tenure as premier from 2012 to 2015 but the premier had other ideas and gave the responsibility to Mr Mafura.
To his credit, the minister did not waste any time and after just two days in office, he graced the last month’s send-off ceremony for the senior national football side ahead of their participation in the regional COSAFA Cup tournament in Rustenburg, South Africa.
He went a step further by availing M50 000 to support of the team.
It was a gesture which gave a lot of people hope that there was more to come from the minister and helped silence his critics who had written him off before he had even started his new job.
I understood the negativity because this is one ministry that has failed to perform to expectations for many years.
It has failed to provide support for the development of sport.
Given this background, the new minister has his work cut out for him and it will take more than gracing sporting events and token financial gestures to succeed in his mandate.
This country is in desperate need of sports infrastructure that matches international standards.
The talent is there but athletes do not have the right facilities to hone and improve their skills.
We are all looking to Ntate Thabane and his government for positive change because sports development has never been a priority for governments.
The minister will do well to outline his vision for transforming sports development because this will not only set the agenda for action but also help engender a sense of confidence that finally something is about to be and will be done.
This country’s sports problems are well documented and it is up to Mr Mafura to make a mark and be counted among heroes of the society that is so passionate about sports.
Since last month, athletes from around the world have been busy competing in the International Athletics Association Federation (IAAF) Diamond League Series in preparation for the upcoming World Championships in London.
I was particularly disappointed that in all the races Lesotho was not represented.
This is partly down to the lack of funds and the apathy on the part of sports administrators.
Mr Mafura must throw his weight around because I really feel that our administrators are plainly lazy to find sponsors to send our athletes to such competitions.
Our national team’s struggles to reach the COSAFA Cup final was a plain reminder of just how far behind we are to the likes of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Likuena coach Moses Maliehe took his tried and tested players but still we could not get past the Zimbabwean squad deemed as the ‘B’ team.
That shows that the minister must push the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) harder to develop young talent.
The fact that Mr Mafura has been so supportive to the extent of going to Rustenburg to watch Likuena’s semi-final clash with Zimbabwe proves that he wants change and is willing to help whenever he is needed.
The minister recently also managed to bring along the Prime Minister Thabane for Likuena’s send-off for their weekend clash with the Comoros.
While it is very good for the players to have the support of the premier and his sports minister, I wish to remind both leaders that to convince Basotho, they need to do more than just attend send-off ceremonies.