• September 27th, 2020

My candid view - Sports Reward Policy: Namibia was never ready

Great American poet and renowned confessional writer, the late Sylvia Plath, through her many impactful writings in the late 50s and early 60s warned us about the unquenchable thirst of powerful individuals and entities always wanting to bite off more than they can chew.
Cautioning us, she uttered the following words: “Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing”. To this very day, Plath’s wise words serve as a clear reminder to all and questions our evolution as human beings, equally calling on us to re-examine our moral compass.  

With Plath’s undying spirit and clarity of purpose in mind, it takes me to recent headlines in local media, where the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) was for the umpteenth time reported to be struggling to settle the outstanding performance bonuses owed to athletes who excelled at last year’s Africa Games, World Athletics Championships and World Para Athletics Championships, among other competitions.
The unpaid performance bonuses or incentives are part of the National Sports Reward Policy, which was approved by Cabinet in 2018 and subsequently came into effect to motivate local athletes to deliver stellar performances and medals when competing in continental and international competitions.

Also, the policy aims to cover the preparation of athletes, their participation and their eventual rewards or incentives of they win medals. The ministry of sports, through the NSC, as custodian, is obliged to provide funds for the smooth implementation of the reward policy.
But since its promulgation about three years ago, the policy has passed little to no fruits for its intended beneficiaries – the athletes, as the continuous and somewhat frustrating absence of funds makes it impossible for the NSC to reward our deserving sports heroes, who continue to break their backs to fly the Namibian flag high at almost all material times when presented with an opportunity.
I, along with many other sport-loving Namibians, have been on record applauding the ministry and government for the introduction of the reward policy, which aims to address the economic hardships of many of our athletes languishing in poverty despite their heroics on the sporting arena.

But the timeliness and magnitude of the policy leave a lot of blank spaces, especially its affordability and perhaps if it was introduced a bit too early forever financially constraint sport governing entities. I personally and candidly believe that the reward policy was prematurely introduced without considering where and how funds will prudently be sourced to reward the winners.

Our situation is no secret: Namibia has a historically underfunded sports ministry which in turn underfunds the NSC, which is the entity expected to smoothly implement the reward policy. Just like the sport ministry, the NSC itself operates on a shoestring budget and how we expect such an embarrassingly underfunded body to fully implement the reward policy is totally beyond me.
Also, when one looks at the figures in the reward policy, it is clear that there is no way the ministry and NSC can sustain such a policy. Truth be told, the incentives are honestly huge and way beyond the Namibian sports scope and financial capability.

For instance, individual athletes who win gold medals at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games will receive N$200 000, while silver medalists get N$150 000 and bronze winners N$100 000. Similarly, the coaches of these athletes in the two categories will get N$80 000 (gold), N$60 000 (silver) and N$40 000 (bronze). For team sports, those who win gold medals will receive N$800 000, with the coaches receiving N$400 000. Silver medalists will receive N$500 000, while the coaches get N$200 000 and bronze medalists will get N$350 000, with the coaches getting N$100 000 – to mention but a few of the numbers entailed in the reward policy. Now, looking at those figures, those are seriously huge amounts of money for the winners and I doubt if the sports ministry and the NSC have financial muscles and capabilities to keep up with those numbers for another ten years or so. It is simply not sustainable, and it is mathematically out of Namibia’s financial reach. 
While I applaud the efforts, I advise we revisit the policy and come up with something affordable and sustainable for the long run to avoid unwanted callous media headlines. Until next time, sharp sharp!

Otniel Hembapu
2020-06-19 09:24:27 | 3 months ago

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