Maphathe says he’s run his race

Maphathe says he’s run his race

MASERU-On March 20 the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association (LAAA) will host its electoral conference after the body was ordered to hold elections by the world athletics governing body last week.
The hope is that the conference will finally bring an end to the infighting that has overwhelmed the organisation for the past two years which has seen LAAA executive members squabble endlessly with their fights even leading to court cases.

While the wished outcome of peace is not a certainty, next month’s elections will definitely mark an end of an era for the LAAA because the association’s spokesperson, Sejanamane Maphathe, will move on after more than a decade with Lesotho’s athletics body.
Maphathe has been the LAAA’s voice since 2008 and has been so active that the association has become synonymous with his commentaries.
He has also been a rare constant figure.

During his 12 years with the association he has seen three presidents come and go, in fact, Maphathe is one of only two people who were elected in 2008 that are still part of the LAAA’s management today; the other is current president Makhaola Serake who was originally elected as secretary general.

After 12 years, however, the veteran administrator has decided to call it quits and will not run for any position in the LAAA committee next month.
Maphathe said he made the decision after careful consideration of the association’s journey since 2008, and its future.

Despite positives over the past decade – including performances of athletes such as Mosito Lehata and Tšepang Sello – the LAAA has been in decline because of the toxic environment behind the scenes.
Everything reached a head last October when the previous LAAA committee’s term expired.

Arguments erupted over the elections for a new committee and when one warring faction held polls on its own accord late last year, the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) rejected the results because the LAAA’s constitution was not followed.
Ultimately, World Athletics stepped in to order fresh elections.
Maphathe opened up about the embarrassment of the international community having to intervene in the LAAA’s administrative affairs for the first time because of recent squabbles.

In a wide-ranging interview with thepost this week, Maphathe said the situation makes him leave the association with a heavy heart.
“We are going to the elections because of the pressure from the international community. We were supposed to host the elections last year (but) now we are going under pressure,” he said.

Maphathe’s passion for athletics started as an aspiring athlete back in 1983 at Letlapeng Primary School in Ha Maphathe.
His dreams didn’t go far, however.
At the time athletes were mocked for running and “chasing the wind” and, like many others, Maphathe was discouraged from going any further with athletics.

Perhaps without those stereotypes he could have gone on to become a fine athlete but, unfortunately, those negative remarks demotivated even the best.
“Nowadays, athletes use the sport to make a living and we have Olympians, (it is) proof of how far athletics has come in the country,” Maphathe said.

Maphathe instead settled for a career in administration. He started at the Police Training College (PTC) where new recruits underwent intensive police training that required athletic training.
Unsurprisingly, he would always be one of the first to arrive at training.
That was the first time Maphathe was exposed to administration and he went on to be president of Maseru Athletics in 2002 until 2008 when he left to join the LAAA.

The LAAA has had its fair share of highs and lows during Maphathe’s time but he said this latest episode of factions and infighting is perhaps the lowest.
Maphathe said he hopes the disputes will be a thing of the past when a new committee is elected next month.
“My wish is for the new committee to be people who fear God, people who love the sport,” Maphathe said.

I hope for athlete-centred administrators and people who will keep the stakeholders happy and strengthen existing relationships the association already has with different stakeholders, the media included.”
“Do not run the association along camps,” he added.
“We are where we are now because there were camps; there should be no factions, that’s my wish.”
Overall, however, Maphathe said he looks back at his time with the LAAA with great pride.

He hailed the media for being active partners and helping the association avoid heavy sanctions from World Athletics in 2009 after three athletes who had qualified for World Championships in Germany failed to make the trip.
“Let me tell you, when you qualify for an event and you don’t make it there are sanctions for the association,” Maphathe said.

“I remember we looked for those guys everywhere and we just couldn’t find them. We put that information out there and the media helped spread the word and were also searching,” he added.
“We left without them and we were facing US$500 (7374.38) fine per person but we were able to make our case that it’s not our fault. They were able to get hold of published material and media and World Athletics realized that actually we are telling the truth. We still had to pay the fine but it was reduced to US$250 (3687.19), so it has been a great journey working with the media. I am proud of that,” he continued.

During Maphathe’s 12 years the LAAA has always been able to send athletes to global events such as the Olympic Games, World Championships and Commonwealth Games as well as major continental events like the African Games.
In 2010, high jump specialist Selloane Tšoaeli won gold and bronze medals at the African Senior Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, while triple jumper Lerato Sechele won gold at the 2013 African Junior Championships and finished fourth at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Maphathe has been present at all of Lesotho’s finest displays over the past decade but he said his proudest moment came when the LAAA was awarded a development award at the 2013 World Championships held in Russia.
The performances of the likes of Mosito Lehata and Sechele, both of whom secured scholarships at high performance centres abroad, were a highlight.
“The award really comes due to the administration and performance of athletes at these events; we were doing well development wise and that was a big thing because we went on to be pitted against other continents,” Maphathe said.

Although Maphathe is stepping aside from LAAA, his hands will remain full as he runs his own athletics club – Khubetsoana Athletics Club – which boasts a roster of 30 athletes – 10 women and 20 men.
His best talents are Olympian Tšepo Mathibelle and his wife Moleboheng Matabane (‘Mathabo Mathibelle).

Maphathe called Mathibelle “a revelation” and said he aims to have more athletes of his calibre come from Khubetsoana Athletics Club who can go on to represent the country at international events.
“I cannot tell you how proud I am of him because he has worked so hard, he has been to the Olympics and World Championships,” Maphathe said of Mathibelle.

“He has participated in so many races all over the world and went to these races via invitations, we want to produce athletes that can compete.”
Maphathe wants somebody that can take the baton from Mathibelle.
“Age is no longer on his side, we need more athletes who are on his level. We want our athletes to qualify for the next World Championships,” Maphathe said.

“For an athlete to just simply get on the podium is a big thing, when you get to the final it is big. People who didn’t know you will know you because your name and where you come from will be read out loud,” he said.
Maphathe is known for his honesty and his rule throughout his time with the LAAA was to never lie or pretend not to know when asked about the association’s affairs.

He credits the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) for letting him serve in sports without any interference when he started off and he credits the support he received from the institution.
Maphathe said he is now aiming higher when it comes to administration.
With the experience he has accumulated over the years, Maphathe has his eyes set on roles at the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC), the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) as well as the African Union Sports Council Region (AUSC) Region 5.
His race in athletics goes on.

Tlalane Phahla

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