Hamhola slams Namibia Olympic Committee

Athletics coach Letu Hamhola, who is also a chief sports officer in the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service, yesterday held a press conference where he questioned his omission from the team and accused the Namibia National Olympic Committee of becoming a ‘clandestine organisation that promotes people on the basis of white privilege.’

“Since Abner Xoagub took over the reigns as president of the NNOC with his secretary Joan Smit, we have seen the following: In 2014 at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow Dawie Augustyn was the chef de mission. It was the same at the 2015 Youth Olympic Games, while he was also the chef de mission at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In 2016 Advocate Jesse Schickerling was the chef de mission at the Rio Olympic Games while he was also the chef de mission at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast. Now for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games I’m a bit confused, because some say Maya Woortman is the chef de mission and some say it’s Joan Smit.

“Today we want to address some sensitive but critical issues. The more we stay quiet about certain issues the more they will never change. The issues, which are based on factual evidence, are issues of institutionalised discrimination, victimisation, prejudicial treatment and lies, and systematic failure,” he added.

Hamhola, who was accompanied by former Namibian Olympians Agnes Samaria, Tjipekapora Herunga and Namibian Paralympics champion Johannes Hamhola said that a 2017 investigation into racism in Namibian sport by the ombudsman had concluded that racism and tribalism was prevalent and that it should be addressed, but that nothing had been done since then.

“If you follow world sport you will know that on Sunday the whole board of Cricket Scotland resigned following a report that was presented about racism, but here in Namibia nobody is held accountable for anything. The facts are clear and we already know that come the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the chef de mission will be white,” he said.

Hamhola, who also coaches Namibian para-athlete Ananias Shikongo, questioned the make-up of the Namibian Paralympics delegation to Birmingham and why he had not been selected to accompany Shikongo.

“On the 14th of June the Namibia Paralympic Committee published a letter with the names of the athletes that have qualified for Birmingham and on that list they added Belinda Oberholster whom they said was the accompanying official. We enquired about it because the para-athletes that were on the list (Shikongo and Bradley Murere) were coached by Ulla Finkeldey and I, so I enquired why we were not involved.

“The reply came that she was only an accompanying official that would be taking care of logistics, but when the team list was released by the NNOC we found that Paralympics had a manager in JP Smit and also a coach in Belinda Oberholster, so I don’t know what logistics she will be dealing with,” he said.

Hamhola said he is Namibia’s highest qualified athletics coach, but had been victimised and sidelined since first accompanying the Namibian team in 2004 to the Athens Olympics.

On that occasion he was only allowed to accompany the team as a coach after Frank Fredericks and Samaria intervened and wrote a supporting letter to the NNOC, while his accreditation to the London Olympic Games in 2012 was cancelled for ‘no apparent reason.’

“I’m still waiting for an explanation, and I had to stay on the streets of London with no accommodation or anyone to take care of me,” he said.

Samaria, Herunga and Nambala all supported Hamhola and recounted some of their own personal experiences of being victimised, adding that the mental health of athletes was not being adequately addressed by the NNOC.

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