Since winning the Rugby Africa Regional sevens South tournament which was held in Lesotho, at the Bocheletsane Stadium two years ago, rugby players are yet to receive the money they were promised as appreciation by the then Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation (MGYSR) Mahali Phamotse.
Lesotho Rugby Seven’s team won the tournament in an impressive fashion much to the amusement of the Minister, after winning all their matches defeating Mozambique 21-5 then saw off Eswatini 31-0. In their third match they continued with the streak of form and convincingly outsmarted Eswatini 24-19 and set up a final with Mozambique where they saw them off with a free-flowing 29-5 in the high-paced final.
Soon after their victory, Phamotse made a promise to the Likatola Rugby Sevens team that they would be rewarded for their triumph by the government. However, this publication can reveal that the money never reached the players.
“We were all there when the minister committed to awarding us but until today we are still to hear anything about it,” one of the players told Newsday.
The player who commented on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, told this publication that they were constantly reminded the money was being processed although the amount was never disclosed.
“All we know is that the money was said to be processed by the ministry and then at one point it was said to be going through procurement, the association’s secretary general Litšitso Motšeremeli was there as the one giving us this information and we remained hopeful.
“Now, two years have gone-by and we are yet to receive the money. The suspicion we have now is that the federation got the money and used it,” said the player.
For his part, Federation of Lesotho Rugby (FLR) Secretary-General Litšitso Motšeremeli confirmed to this publication that they were indeed promised an appreciation although he refutes allegations that the federation had received the funds.
“I can confirm that the minister did promise to award the team with an undisclosed amount of money for their good performance in the tournament and for being the first team to win a regional tournament in the country, however, the federation has never received the money,” Motšeremeli said.
He further indicated that in his capacity as the Secretary-General has been making follow-ups on the money until recently when he was notified the money is still being processed.
Meanwhile, the sports ministry’s Media and Information Officer Maqalika Matsepe told Newsday Sports on Wednesday that the ministry is aware of such money which he said will be processed once it is available.
“The challenge has been that the government has been experiencing financial constraints since 2019, that situation was made worse by the outbreak of Covid-19.
“All government spending was diverted to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and which has seen most of the funds allocated to the ministry by government being cut down to only meet operational costs,” Matsepe said.
“What I can guarantee is that once the money is available it will be given to the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC) who then will hand the money to the rugby federation,” he said.
Dr Mahali Phamotse was the minister then but was reshuffled in July 2020 when her party Alliance of Democrats (AD) was no longer part of the coalition that made government and was therefore replaced by Likeleli Tampane.
Matsepe explained that although there has been a change of ministers it does not necessarily change anything in terms of what the previous minister had put in place.
“Once such a decision has been made by the minister, it is the office’s duty to make sure that that happens, which means the team will still get the money whether the administration has changed or not,” said Matsepe.