By John Tuerijama
FORMER president of the Namibia Volleyball Federation (NVF), Joel Mathews, was recently appointed by Sports minister Jerry Ekandjo as chairman of the Namibia Sports Commission. Confidente Sports tracked him down to gain insight on the plans he has for the sports regulator.
Confidente: As new chairperson of the NSC, what are some of the key changes that you want to introduce?
Joel Mathews: If there is one area where I hope to make a lasting difference to the NSC, it is in the culture of the institution. Every sports institution has and needs a soul interpreted by its internal and external culture. To establish these cultures or to change them is not an easy task, but along the way we have to put some important building blocks in place.
Confidente: Many sport federations are struggling financially, a situation that has been going on for many years now. What will you do to ensure that Government commits more funds to the development of sport in the country?
JM: This will not be an easy task as you know that Government is faced with many challenges, ranging from unemployment and housing crisis in the country. With this in mind, I am not prepared to make any promise to the sport community in the country. First, I must consult, gain knowledge and understand how things work so that it can help me to develop a strategy to convince government for more funding. At the moment our hope for more Government funding is the approval of the Nation Sport Plan by the line ministry. This is the document that will guide government in terms of sport funding in the country. Once implemented it will ensure the achievement of the objectives set out in the National Sport Policy which will contribute to the realization of relevant goals set in the National Development Plan and the overall development effort of Government directed towards the entire population as defined in Namibia’s Vision 2030.
Confidente: What is your opinion the complaints from sports bodies who are unable to compete internationally because of funding issues?
JM: This status is a serious concern. It needs to be addressed soon if we want to see Namibia becoming a winning sporting nation in future. But you must understand that Government alone will not be the answer, we must bring on board private partners to help us to change the status quo.
Confidente: Your predecessors have called for the reduction of sport codes affiliated to the NSC, and of late we heard of the categorisation of sport codes since last year, how far is that process?
JM: The categorisation does not mean to reduce code affiliation. This is to prioritise funding. With limited resources we cannot afford to invest resources on a broader base. The new categorisation policy will be applied consistently and objectively to all registered codes with NSC in order to rank, prioritise and categorise them. That means that financial and non-financial support will now be considered according to the prioritisation but not to reduce them. The aim of the policy is to provide a framework of objective and clear criteria in which sport codes are prioritised. The process is in its final stages as all ranking criteria are already determined. As soon as we get a green light from the line ministry we will start with the categorisation.
Confidente: Namibia has seen a worrying decline in teams participating at international sport events such as the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games. How will you ensure that this is turned around?
JM: This situation is due to athletes not meeting qualification standards that are set by the international bodies. We as a country must ensure that we produce quality players that can meet the standard by developing strong foundation for development. We start by developing an effective talent identification programme. National federations must be motivated to start these programmes in their structures and NSC is prepared to engage them and also identify other potential partners to help in this regard.
Confidente: As chairperson of the Sports Commission what is your overall mandate?
JM: As chairperson I am mandated to lead a group of dedicated commissioners, to ensure that we implement Government policies and directives regarding the business of sport in the country.
Confidente: What do you want to accomplish before your term of office comes to an end?
JM: I want to accomplish a culture of service delivery to our clients. I want each and every staff at the NSC office to embrace a culture of delivering service with dedication, passion and enthusiasm. Platforms have to be created for members to enjoy an open and frank exchange of the future of sport in Namibia. One of the things I am trying to do during my chairmanship is to forge an enlightened culture together with my colleagues at NSC.
Confidente: Is there a possibility of organising a national ‘Indaba’ attended by all stakeholders to address problems affecting sport codes?
JM: No I don’t think there is a need for a national indaba at the moment. Stakeholders were already consulted in April 2014 at the sport conference where they shared ideas on how to take we organise another one if the sport fraternity has taken stock from that conference. At the moment there is a draft National Sports Plan that has answers to many problems in Namibian sport. The National Sports Plan identified the need of sport categorisation which is one of the first projects to be executed. As soon as the plan is approved by the line ministry, NSC will fully implement the plan with no hesitation. sport to the next level. Why must
Confidente: Many sport administrators have labelled the NSC as toothless in that the Commission does not hold sport bodies accountable for the grants they receive?
JM: For the accountability of the grants I am not in a position to comment now as I did not study all financial files of the NSC to confirm these allegations. I must first do so to make informed comments. But the law requires all national federations to submit audited financial reports. If it did not happen then it is a matter of the previous commission not enforcing the law. Those codes that failed to comply must know that things will change as from now. Money given to these bodies is public funds and therefore accountability must be demanded. Those that labelled NSC as toothless must be warned that things will for sure change. The mandate of controlling all sport funding in Namibia is now in the hands of NSC. No sport code or umbrella body will from now on receive direct funding from the ministry. That is giving us the muscular and teeth we need to perform our mandate.
Confidente: What should be done to have sport codes account for the annual grants they receive?
JM: For the sport codes and umbrella bodies to be accountable we must just enforce the law. The Sport Act is very clear in this regard and there should be no reason why we should not impose it.
Confidente: Do you think that 26 years after Independence there are still sport codes that have failed to embrace the policy of national reconciliation in making sure that national teams have equal demographic representation?
JM: This is a serious issue and very sensitive for that matter. Even I must be careful what I say. But in my opinion I believe this is contributed by different factors ranging from lack of interest from administrators who are involved in these sports codes to adapt or develop favourable structures that create opportunities for participation to all, regardless of where you are in Namibia. The issue of lack of funding may also have played a role. For those sport codes that are reluctant to embrace change, be advised that with the policy of sport codes categorisation they may miss out on great opportunities as the criteria will highly encourage and reward codes that effectively deliver sustainable benefits to the country and its population.
Confidente: As a sport administrator yourself, what do you think are the key challenges facing the Sports Commission?
JM: One of the main challenges that the Commission is faced with is lack of funding. This will only be overcome if the NSC creates a commercial branch that will help to generate the much needed resources as Government funding cannot be enough to sustain sport activities in the country. Limited staff complement at the office is also a huge challenge. NSC’s mandate is delicate to be performed by the number of staff currently in the structure.
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