Basketball reaches crossroads

Basketball reaches crossroads

MASERU – By the beginning of next week the Lesotho Basketball Association (LBA) will have new leadership in place as the New Year brings with it a fresh chapter for local basketball. The executive changes will come on Sunday when the LBA holds a special annual general meeting (AGM).
The conference is special because it will include early elections.

The current board, which was elected in 2015, was only due to finish its term at the end of 2018 but because of departures from inside the committee the LBA has been forced into early elections.
It is an important juncture for the sport.

Over the past decade local basketball has grown in leaps and bounds, and from being a minority pastime, it is now played on an organised level in six of the country’s ten districts.
This week thepost sat down with outgoing secretary general Palo Mohlotsane who has been actively involved in basketball for over 15 years, first as a player and then as an administrator.

During his sit down with thepost, Mohlotsane reflected on the LBA’s achievements during his time in office and the future of basketball in Lesotho.
You have been a member of the LBA’s executive committee since 2007. You served three terms, one as the public relations officer and two as the secretary general. Why are you stepping down?

First of all, it is a constitutional obligation. Our constitution says a person can (only) be in office for two consecutive terms if you are occupying one position. So I am bound by the law, (and) because we believe in law, we had to make the decision to step down.
Secondly, I think you are aware that we are calling these elections before time. That’s because I personally have many commitments and I no longer have time to run the association effectively meaning we are now leaving a lot of work to the president (Molupe Mothepu) alone.
(The president) is overloaded now and it means the federation is going to suffer.

So because we love basketball very much, it is important to us that when we see there are gaps we cannot fill, we should not to occupy the seats when there are other people who can do a better job than us.

Third, a lot of people resigned from their positions (in the committee). Vice-president Sekhoane Moshabesha left the federation (in 2017) because he had other commitments outside the country and his job was the competitions administrator.

The treasurer (Nkhethuoa Makhorole) also said she has other commitments and will not be able to be hands-on to help run the association, so the functioning was no longer visible.

So if you are to be a good leader you have to admit where there are gaps. If you claim to love your sport, the most important thing for you is to accept it is no longer time for you to be here. What you need to do is to leave a legacy where you did well, I think that’s all.

Which accomplishment during your time in office are you most proud of?

Well, there are many. When I first arrived in administration (in 2007), we were doing life skills.
At that time basketball was focused on issues of life skills which were sponsored by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).
Schools came in numbers because of the life skills element and we groomed a lot of coaches at that time.

We taught them to apply those life skills not only in basketball but in their personal lives as well and, if you look at basketball people in different (job) sectors, you will see that those who received our life skills training are achieving a lot in their lives.

The passion for basketball is also back. Basketball used to be played in high schools but nothing much after that.
We decided to bring the slogan “Driven by Passion” because we wanted to say “we are here because we want to push the love and passion for basketball”.

We also managed to get some sponsors back – the likes of Sprite, Gallitos, Beltex, Vodacom, Econet, KFC, you name them – we successfully brought them into basketball to support us.

We also managed to get recognition internationally. Lesotho is an active member of FIBA (International Basketball Federation) and Africa Region 5; we attend a lot of their meetings, mostly by me.

We have managed to lobby FIBA and they help us annually with equipment. We have actually accomplished a lot of things.

How has basketball improved during your time in office?

It has improved in terms of play; remember we did not have high school basketball in Thaba-Tseka (before 2009).
Through our development office we managed to have high school basketball in Thaba-Tseka and Qacha’s Nek. In Quthing the standard had deteriorated, now it is improving. We are now on track in bringing high school basketball to Mokhotlong.

Secondly, the level of administration has also improved. The first thing we did was to amend our constitution. It helped us because we didn’t have financial policies to guide us when it comes to managing money.

What is the biggest improvement that still needs to happen for Lesotho basketball?

It is to bring back the national team; we have to push the national team to compete internationally.
We need to work with three on three (basketball) and make it a strong component.
We need to ensure that when the new committee comes in that our administration has good relations with other sports federation. We also need more companies to help us, so a good image is one of the biggest things we need.

What do you think has been the biggest milestone in terms of basketball development?

It comes from the development office which is (Faku Masupha’s) office. He developed a framework and every office within the LBA was able to help the association in a certain way.
He drew up a policy in which he said this is going to help us when it comes to development because it is the most important thing. Programmes like Bokamoso (Basketball Development Programme) came to life.

What are some of the challenges the incoming committee is going to encounter, challenges that have been on-going over the years which the outgoing committee was not able to overcome?

There are many. We still have to build relationships with other national federations. We have many pending cases whose judgments are (now) available.  What (the out-going committee) needed to do was to publish them and make decisions when the judgements come; (the new committee) are coming to work and they are expected to push it.

They need to make sure our basketball players don’t only end up here (in Lesotho), we have many players outside the country but we need to push to have more. (The incoming committee) also needs to be seen internationally at meetings.
They have to manage the funding (from FIBA and government); that’s a big thing because, whether you like it or not, finances have to be managed.

Will you be there to support the incoming committee or this is where your journey with basketball ends?

I will be there supporting but not as a member of the executive committee. Remember I am a referee, I was also trained as a coach but I could not do all these things because I was in the executive, I had to excuse myself for a while.

But now that I am no longer part of the executive it is going to be easier to help run games and help groom referees because we need more referees.
We also need the media to help us, provided you love our sport. The incoming committee must know sport doesn’t pay, it is better to know now.
When we were sitting in the executive committee all these years we never had sitting allowances, they were not there. We understood we had to spend our own money to help the players and assist where we could.

How do you see the future of basketball in the country? Where do you see the game in the next five to ten years?

With the coming executive I see basketball as the best sport in the country.
We have a plan to have improved our game and our structures by 2020. We started two years back, so it says we have a bright future.
In the next five years we will have improved our international rankings in Southern Africa, provided we bring back the national team like I said before.
In terms of administration, I think we are (already) the best run federation in the country.

Luciah Phahla

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