Some self-anointed local football pundits, mostly those that are perceived to be anti the Patrick Kauta-led Namibia Premier League (NPL), were on Monday up in arms and at pains trying to accuse sports minister Agnes Tjongarero of interfering in local football matters.
The outcry stems from the minister’s latest directive to the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC), in which she instructed the NSC to temporarily put on hold the NPL’s application to be recognised by the commission as a national sports body that will run a professional league.
Tjongarero deferred the whole application process to allow more room for proper review and fairness, and have since called a press conference slated for tomorrow at the ministry’s office, where she will pronounce herself on the way forward for local football.
The NSC has in recent weeks been under heavy bashing from local football fans, which feel the commission failed in its role to be an effective mediator between the Namibia Football Association (NFA) and the NPL.
Although NSC head Freddy Mwiya has on multiple occasions assured the public that the commission was doing everything in its powers to remedy the feud between the NPL and NFA, there has been little success from those efforts and that has led to more public distrust.
Last Saturday, the NSC indicated that it was finally ready to pronounce itself on the status of the NPL application after spending weeks consulting various sports and law experts. The NSC pronouncement on the NPL application was to coincide with last Friday’s Fifa letter to the NFA, wherein Fifa said two top tier football leagues in Namibia were “unacceptable”.
The general feeling among football fans and experts was that the NSC had deliberately waited for the Fifa letter to first arrive last Friday so that they too the following day (Saturday) can premise their decision to reject the NPL’s application on Fifa’s indistinct stance.
Friday’s letter from Fifa only vaguely said it was “unacceptable” to have two premier divisions, but at no point did it say it was impossible or undoable. As a result of the NSC planned decision to reject the NPL’s application subsequent to Fifa’s letter, big question marks around the veracity and fairness of the whole process were flashing and minister Tjongarero was forced to step in and provide timeous guidance as per the powers vested in her by the Namibia Sports Act of 2003.
Under section 38 of the Sports Act, which deals with regulations, the minister on the recommendation of the NSC make decisions and regulations relating to any form of application, which may be made in terms of this Act, and the particulars to be furnished in connection with any such application.
And paragraph (t) of section 38 further gives the minister powers to make regulations relating to any matter required or permitted to be prescribed under this Act; and paragraph (u) of the same section goes on to allow the minister to make decisions on any matter which the minister considers necessary or expedient to prescribe in order to achieve the purposes of this Act.
Not only section 38, but under the same Sports Act, section 14 under subsection 1 and 2, the minister may give the commission such written directives of a general character relating to the exercise of the commission’s functions as it appears to the minister necessary in the public interest (subsection 1) and subsection 2 says before giving the commission any directive under subsection (1), the minister must inform the commission, in writing, of the proposed directive and the commission must submit in writing to the minister its views on the proposal, including the possible effects on the finances and other resources of the commission.
The above legal provisions as provided by the national Sports Act rubbishes all existing assertions that Tjongarero is interfering in football matters, but rather makes it clear that the minister acted well within her powers to guide and intervene – not interfere.
What Tjongarero will announce at tomorrow’s press conference remains unknown, but what is clear at the moment is that the sports commission has rendered itself incapable and untrustworthy of remedying the football situation and maybe the minister will be forced to look elsewhere for assistance.
Looking to the future of professionalism
Meanwhile, under objective four of the NSC five-year strategic plan that was launched in 2018 and runs until 2022, the commission plans to explore multiple avenues for resource mobilisation; promote the establishment of a grant/fund for sport development and elite sport; promote the commercialisation of sport and engage in trade activities as per the provision from the Sport Act. As per the earlier announcement of the NPL, their planned professional league aims to compliment the NSC strategic plan by laying the foundation of commercialising local football.
In fact, paragraph (s) of section 38 of the Sports Act calls upon the minister to ensure regulations are in place for the carrying on of trading or commercial activities by the commission, or a national umbrella sports body, national sports body or sports club. Again, the NPL’s professional league plans to compliment the minister’s legal mandate as provided for by paragraph (s) of section 38.