The Greek philosopher Socrates once wrote: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” I know there may be many other philosophers today who have a different perspective, but Socrates’ words resonate in the truest sense, in my personal opinion.
The Boxing and Wrestling Control Act, which was brought into force in 1980, was for a dependent South West Africa still under South African rule. An act which was signed on 2 July 1980 by then South West Africa administrator general (AG) Gerrit Viljoen. Viljoen took office as AG from 7 August 1979 until 4 September 1980.
All these years later, Namibia still operates under the act brought into force in 1980. An act which was described as discriminatory by a former chairman of the boxing board.
Numerous boards have come and gone, all with the same agenda saying: “We need to update the outdated act.” However, nothing has materialised to this day.
On 7 April 2021, sport minister Agnes Tjongarero appointed Magreth Mengo as chairperson of the Namibia Professional Boxing and Wrestling Control Board.
Mengo was the first woman to take on this position, a tenure in which she will serve to the end of April 2024.
When the new board was appointed, Tjongarero said the new board members should consider revising the Boxing Act of 1980, which, according to her, is ancient and requires some changes.
Mengo, a national hockey team player and captain, echoed the minister’s sentiments, and said the board’s first priority will be to revise the Boxing Act of 1980.
At the release of this open letter, no stakeholder meeting has been called to have any inputs for the establishment of a new act.
Namibia, after 33 years of independence, is still guided by an outdated act which prohibits women from taking part in professional boxing matches.
On 26 August 2018, president Hage Geingob said: “As we work for a better Namibia in which no one should feel left out, let us hold hands in the spirit of Harambee.”
I am confident in saying that in professional boxing, Namibian women are feeling left out because they can’t participate in the sport they love.
As an international professional boxing referee/judge, I have witnessed the inequality within professional boxing in Namibia. Namibia has two female Namibian referee/judges. Two women who have not been called upon to officiate any local bouts in the last four years.
Mengo said: “We are here to drive harmony between us, stakeholders, promoters and partners, as well as the potential sponsors of boxing in Namibia.”
Two years after serving on the boxing board, and there is still no mention of women ever to take part in professional boxing in Namibia.
Only when women can start participating in professional boxing, can there be made mention of harmony in professional boxing in Namibia.
For 12 years, referees/judges in Namibia have not received any refresher workshops to hone and nurture their skills. Referees/judges that carry the flag of Namibia whenever they are called upon by world boxing bodies to represent the country.
Favouritism when it comes to the appointment of local officials at tournaments are a matter of concern, with no rotation schedule transparent to officials.
A fair rotation schedule would ensure all referees/judges enjoy the same amount of experience when it comes to officiating at local tournaments. Experience and adequate workshops are pivotal in building great refereeing and judging performances.
This open letter, written in my capacity as an independent contractor licensed by the Namibian Boxing and Wrestling Control Board as a professional boxing referee/judge.
I am calling upon the sport minister to engage the current board as speedily as possible to not continue serving as board members without coming up with a new professional Boxing Act.
I close with the wise words of another ancient Greek philosopher, Plato: “There is nothing so delightful as the hearing, or the speaking of truth. For this reason, there is no conversation so agreeable as that of the man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive.
*Patrick Esterhuizen is the holder of the 2018 Namibia Sports award for referee/umpire of the year. He is a professional boxing referee/judge licensed by the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Organisation and the International Boxing Federation.