There’s a new chief in town

Baitshepi Sekgweng

With a background steeped in the corporate world, Botho Kebabonye Bayendi will need all her experience in her demanding new role, CEO of the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC).

Armed with qualifications from all over the world, the Moshupa native may be a new face in the sporting fraternity, however, she is an old hand when it comes to getting things done…

Congratulations for grabbing the BNOC top job, how does it feel?

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I am truly grateful. I take it as a moment of growth and an opportunity that needs to be grabbed with both hands.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a strategist and family woman who hails from Moshupa.

I hold a Master’s degree in Strategic Management – University of Derby, BA (Social Sciences), Dip (Statistics) from the University of Botswana.

My development journey also includes Executive Leadership Development Programme – University of Oxford, Senior Management Development Programme – University of Stellenbosch Business School and Developing Women in Leadership – University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

Wow, that makes me feel extremely under educated! And your professional journey before joining BNOC?

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I consider myself to be a well-developed, diverse, and continuously evolving leader groomed in several Boardrooms, reporting as a member of the senior management team, serving as a Board Secretary, and providing performance and governance oversight as a Board Member.

I have devoted my career to strategy development and effective execution in different Organisations with diverse mandates and cultures including: BQA, BHC, CEDA, Office of the President, BNPC, Botswana Prisons Service and Central Statistics Office [now Statistics Botswana].

As a relative unknown in sports, were you not worried about politics or boardroom issues when you accepted the CEO offer?

For me, the perceived sports politics is more high levels of energy driven by the love of the game that could be directed positively or negatively.

The politics is there in corporate but the passion could be fuelling it more in sports as well as the diversity of stakeholders, it’s there but it won’t be my focus.

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With a background steeped in the corporate world, what prompted the move to the sporting fraternity?

As you would have noted from my career trajectory, I have managed to find a place for myself in a myriad of industries and sectors across the board.

I am up for any challenge which comes my way, the top-job being one of them.

I love people, I found this to be an opportunity to interact with different people to influence and impart the positive energy I carry everywhere I go.

It was also an opportunity to sneak back into the industry and help others achieve excellence in sport, an unfulfilled passion as I had to trade off sports for my academic ambitions.

And how have you found it so far?

My impressions thus far, I would say that I have found it interesting, an opportunity to express the leader in me, but also a move that has brought about a healthy challenge at this point in my career.

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In corporate, we spend money hiring motivational speakers to induce energy for people to perform; in sports the motivation, energy and passion are there, you just have to be aware of the signs, (positive or negative), then discern and exploit them for desired results.

What do you aim to achieve with the BNOC?

The vision for the current BNOC strategy is ‘To be a world class enabler for excellence through sport’.

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I am so aligned, excellence is my personal credo, which motivates and drives me both professionally and personally, and I am hoping to impart the same on the organisation.

In a broader perspective, I love sports for national unity and pride; I love sports for economic diversification.

We see sports millionaires across the world and being responsible for elite athletes, I am challenged to facilitate athletes to exhaust their best talent and grit for improved livelihood and national pride.


Set for the end of July, the Commonwealth Games are fast approaching. How are the preparations going?

Preparations have started, we are less than 60 days to go, and we experienced slow preparations from the start, owing to delayed funding from Government as our major financier.

Full funding has, however, been received covering May activities and we are at the peak of preparation and qualification events are on-going well.

Some codes are receiving financial assistance from different partners and we invite all corporates and individuals to partner with us now, at the ploughing season rather than coming at harvest time!

Issues of finances are a long-standing problem for local sports, especially when it comes to preparing for major sporting events.How do you aim to change this?

It is incumbent upon all of us in sport administration to find ways in which to diversify our streams of income to help fund and support sport.

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We need more strategic partners than once off donors.

We can achieve this by coming up with products improving marketing, governance and accountability to convince potential funders that they can trust us with their hard-earned money and get proper returns.

What’s the budget for the Commonwealth Games?

P8 million.

What target has been set, performance-wise?

We are hoping to improve upon the five medals we secured in 2018, and bring home eight medals.

The target-setting assumptions were that all preparatory activities would have taken place, without that we would be realistic to start having low confidence levels on the targets.

However, it is the prerogative of our governance structures to review targets which had not happened, therefore eight medals it remains.

Recently, the issue of Olympic Solidarity Scholarships took centre stage in local sports, kindly share with us how this work?

The Olympic Solidarity Scholarships are awarded to athletes to assist them with preparations for the next Olympic Games.

The funding is used to cover almost all aspects of an athlete’s preparations.

Paris 2024 Scholarships were announced to assist athletes with the ‘technical ability’ to prepare and qualify for the Paris Games.

This is as per the Olympic Solidarity requirements as it relates to the ideal candidate.

Having qualified less than 50 athletes at the previous Olympics, Botswana qualified for five scholarships valued at US$ 1,500 [P18, 000] each per month.

There was an option to double the number of scholarships awarded to ten, but within the same allocated amount.

This would therefore result in a total amount received of US$ 7,500 [P90, 000] for athlete beneficiaries.

So in a nutshell there has been a surge in the number of scholarships?

Considering the BNOC’s strategic goal to increase the number of athletes qualifying for the Olympic Games, and taking into account the current pool of potential, we opted to increase the number of beneficiaries to ensure that as many athletes as possible are afforded guaranteed assistance to prepare for Paris 2024.

We then added an extra two athletes to have a total of 12.

The criteria used was dependent and derived from that of the International Olympic Committee (IOC’s) with a view to prioritize younger athletes who will form a part of our pipeline, and have benefited less from the same grant over the years.

How many times can an athlete benefit from the scholarship?

There is no set limit, and as such, in Botswana we have followed suit and not set a cap on the number of times an athlete can be a beneficiary.

An issue has not arisen in the past two quadrennials, as the pool of athletes meeting the eligibility criteria was limited and therefore, we did not exhaust our allocation.

However, as a result of the growth in sport, we have recognised that the pool of deserving athletes has deepened, and therefore there may be a need to limit the number of times one benefits.

What role do National Sports Associations (NSA) play in this?

Firstly, NSA’s respond to the Expression of Interest (EOI) through making submissions of the athletes that meet the eligibility criteria for a scholarship.

In the instance that an athlete from a specific NSA is chosen as a beneficiary, it is the duty of the NSA to endorse the acceptance.

This contract is signed by representatives of the NSA and the NOC, as well as by the athlete beneficiary. NSA’s are further bound to monitoring and evaluating the athlete’s performance through the submission of progress reports every four months.

After missing out on a scholarship, Nijel Amos threatened to go solo as an independent athlete – have you had a chance to meet with him yet?

I have a responsibility to unite and energize elite athletes ahead of the games, if the excellence we so much aspire for is to be achieved.

Nijel is more than an elite athlete, his past performance has positioned him as a national brand and I don’t think we could relegate our national brand to external funders such as OS.

As Batswana we should consolidate our support and preserve our brand. Elite athletes make-up part of my critical stakeholders and they are part of my on boarding priorities, Nijel is definitely on my list through proper governance structures and protocols.

He met some critical structures or officials that I am accountable to and work is on-going reconciling and energizing the whole team, including Nijel.

Good luck with that. Do you have any other scholarships under your fold?

Yes, we do. Our athletes stand to benefit from various scholarships including; the ANOCA Scholarship and Continental Grants.

Both scholarships work in a similar fashion to the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship, save for the following; at present the ANOCA scholarship hasn’t declared the amount each athlete will be eligible for.

However, based on historical allocations, we are anticipating that it shall be the same amount.

The Continental Grant affords beneficiaries a lesser amount.

Olympic 2024 Games cycle has begun – what should we expect in terms of preparations?

Having lost almost a-year-and-a-half of preparations in this cycle due to the postponement of the previous Olympics, we have taken a deliberate decision to use all games that are occurring between now and Paris 2024 as preparation activities.

We expect to start identifying athletes who will be supported to attempt qualification from games such as the Commonwealth Games as happening in 2022 as well as other sport, specifically the World Championships.


We will be monitoring the performance of such athletes regardless of whether they have been supported by the BNOC or BNSC to attend competitions.

Away from your hectic work schedule, how do you spend your free time?

Free time is mostly weekends and sports activities happen on weekends, this therefore is a new normal where I juggle between work, family commitments and church over what is supposedly free time.

I do endurance walks to re-energize and keep fit on my early Saturday mornings.

Is Botho Bayendi a family woman?

Yes I am. I am married to Goodstar Bayendi, from Maitengwe and have been blessed with three wonderful children: two sons Thabiso and Ofile and a six-year-old daughter Letlhabile.

I come from a big family and enjoy the company of kids.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

I am a practicing and ordained Minister of Religion; I therefore draw my inspiration from the word of God and God’s creation, his people and the greens around me.

On my most depressed day I do bush walk, I pray, I sing and I do lot of reading.

Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

Sad weekend for me, I have to prioritize friend support – one of my friends lost a child MHSRIP.

I also have work commitment: Virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM).

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