Champion Nambala laments on being overlooked

• By Michael Uugwanga

PARALYMPIAN sprinter Johannes Nambala continues to be overlooked by the corporate world, despite being the only Namibian athlete to win the World Championship three times.

Nambala first won the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championship, in the 400m T13 in Lyon, France in 2013 before he added another gold medal in the 200m T13 in 2015 in Doha, Qatar and his third gold medal in the 400m T13 in Dubai in 2019.

The other Namibian athlete to win a world champion was legendary sprinter Frank Fredericks in the 200m in 1993 in Germany.

Nambala’s other top achievements are two silver medals won at the Rio Paralympic Games in both the 100m T13 and 400m T13, before he added a bronze medal in the 400m T13 at the Paralympic Games that were recently held in Japan.

Nambala also scooped gold in the 400m T13 in 2015 at the All-Africa Games that were held in Congo Brazzaville.

Despite his achievements, Nambala continues to be overlooked by both government and the private sector when comparing to the likes of fellow paralympian sprinters Johanna Benson and Ananias Shikongo who were awarded with houses and even street names for their sporting achievements.

Despite winning in Tokyo, Nambala was once again sidelined with Olympian teenagers, Christine Mboma (silver medalist) and Beatrice Masilingi continuing to receive financial rewards for their achievements.

The girls have a huge personal sponsorships from MTC amounting to N$3 million each for the next three years, which includes a house for each worth N$300 000; while Nambala and his compatriot Ananias Shikongo were awarded a once-off payment of N$100 000 and N$70 000 for their Paralympic heroics, plus each received a brand-new iPhone 12.

On top of that Mboma and Masilingi also received more in terms of cash, allowances for monthly airtime and for personal upkeep and expenses over a three-year period.

Each athlete will also receive an amount of N$250 000 per annum over the three-year period to assist them with event preparation. Nambala and his fellow Paralympians wish they could also get similar treatment.

Speaking to Confidente Sport Nambala said he feels sad that despite his achievements globally, he is not being treated like a true world champion.

“I am a three-time world champion and I am not sure if there is any Namibian out there that has won world championships like me. Perhaps disability sport does not get the same treatment as that of the able-bodied sport.

“If I was in Europe or U.S.A I would be living large. I was not awarded with a house or a street name neither was I given a plot. You will not believe it that I did not even get my reward policy from government. Namibians are just ignorant. Paralympian lives are more expensive than that of able-bodied athletes,” he lamented.

Nambala expressed dismay at being left out of the sports awards nominations.

“I have to thank Fredericks for giving me a scholarship as he is the only Namibian that came forth to me after the Rio Games saying that he will be helping me out. It is strange that I am not in the category of the MTC-Namibia Annual Sport Awards Sports Stars of the Year since the award is ranked from end of 2019 to end of September this year.”  Nambala’s coach Letu Hamhola is of the opinion that the reason why disability sport is still not recognised as that of able-bodied is due to lack of education amongst the general public.

Hamhola said in order for the Paralympians to get the same recognition as that of the able-bodied athletes, government and the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) need to be at the forefront before the corporate world comes on board.

“Nambala is a triple world champion and he has won 12 elite medals, meaning his track record is second to none and we need to appreciate him, but that has to start at government level that is when we can get it right. Article 10 of the constitution is very clear: All persons shall be equal before the law. No persons may be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status,” said Hamhola.

“We have our founding mothers of Paralympics in Marie van Watt and Anna Shipena who were our first Paralympians at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Then we have Reginald Benade who competed at the 2008 Summer Paralympic in Beijing, China where he won a bronze medal in the men’s F35/36 discus throw event. Benade also deserves a street name in his home town of Rehoboth just like Luketz Swartbooi (former marathon runner),” he concluded.

MTC chief human capital and corporate affairs officer, Tim Ekandjo has said that the reason why they chose the two golden girls is to market the MTC brand. He therefore urged other private companies to come on board and sponsor athletes as well.

“Each girl is getting N$100 000 in cash and the other amount is to construct houses for them and other purposes. We are not sponsoring the two golden girls, but they are doing something for us in return through endorsement. Why can’t other companies do the same?” said Ekandjo.

Namibia Sports Commission chief administrator Freddy Mwiya said that all athletes are treated equally.

“According to our reward policy all athletes are rewarded equally”.