The Politics of Sports in Namibia

NAMIBIA Sports Commission announced recently that it will host a national sports conference from 24-26 April 2014.

This will be the first national sports conference after the establishment of the Sports Commission. There is no doubt that Namibia is in a complete state of paralysis regarding sports.

The sport industry is besieged by chronic plethora of issues ranging from leadership crisis, absence of the strategic sports plan, inadequate financing, absence of research and development and an appropriate marketing plan.

There is also a serious lack of infrastructural development apart from the non-existence of high performance sport centres, specialist training colleges, curriculum development and recreational facilities. The objective of the conference, we are made to understand, is precisely to address the above chronic issues.

A conversation on sports is critical to understand the overall economics of sports to the GDP, and to further raise awareness on the economic and financial impact of sports in terms of socio-economic development and empowerment. Sport development and empowerment has in recent times become catchy sound bites in sporting circles. But it seems chief policy makers, sport officials and sport activists often have a somewhat unsophisticated understanding of it. This often leads to aborted plans and initiatives which are unscientific, unfocused and ineffective.

An interventionist approach in which sport is intended to contribute to fundamental change and transformation is critical. The most important interventionist strategy in the sport industry would be a greater investment in holistic applied research on sport in order to develop and formulate effective strategic plans, policies, programmes and initiatives.

An integrated sport-economic strategy, encompassing all strategic stakeholders is required to leverage on the resources and bridge the gap that exists in the sports sector.

The planned sport gathering should also take a critical interrogation on the declining state of schools sport and out-of-school youth sport programmes. In the first quarter of each year, schools sport ought to be a drawing card. Today, the enthusiasm that accompanied schools sport is a distant dream.

Schools sport is important in the sense that it serves as a breeding ground for future sport stars. Namibia National Schools Sports Union needs a radical change of leadership accompanied by subsequent wholesome reform. Also, it is becoming more apparent that there seems to be a lack of proper co-ordination and synergy between the department of sports and the sports commission. Their roles and mandates are generally confused and overlap in many instances.

Namibia Sports Commission itself is under-resourced and underfunded. Ideally, a sport commission should consists of several business development units, researchers, sport scientists, sport development experts, legal officers, marketing and communications czars, projects and finance executives and a comprehensive vehicle fleet.

The annual budget of Namibia Sports Commission hovers around N$7 million, with only one car at its disposal.

Comparatively, the Botswana Sports Commission employs dozens of people and possesses all sorts of vehicles and has an annual budget of 30 million pula. They hardly rely on government departments for assistance. It is therefore not surprising that an equivalent nation like Botswana surpassed us in sporting prowess and achievements in recent years.

At the sports conference, Namibia Sports Commission should showcase best practices, actions and initiatives that would confidently address challenges and offer remedies in the sport industry. Such a frank engagement will enhance understanding and knowledge sharing prior to, during and post-conference on sustainable sport development.

Socio-economic impacts such as wealth creation, employment creation and contribution to GDP and nation building are critical variables. The conference, we hope, should also discuss the nation’s sports road map, private-public partnership in sports, racism in sports and issues around leadership and financing.

A much more radical interventionist approach would be to recommend that the Sports Act be amended so as to include recreation and leisure. This would enable the sport industry to integrate sport with recreation and leisure for broad opportunities.

Most of all, a 10-year strategic plan, 2015-2025, should be the envisioned outcome of the sport conference. In the long run, successful implementation of such a strategic plan requires strengthening of the core areas and agenda-setting and representation mandate of the Namibia Sports Commission, with commensurate capacity and resources, in order to support various sport codes in fulfilling their respective mandates.

nbspBernadus Swartbooi and Henny Seibeb are co-founders of The Ideas Centre (includes the Africa-Asia Strategic Studies Institute which will be launched soon).

Source : The Namibian