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Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe, "Buthali Walks Into Checkmate," Mmegi, 9 June 2006 (Gaborone, Botswana).

No office. No constitution. No hand over and no financial reports. This is what Dabilani Buthali of Botswana found out when he took over the reigns at the African Chess Union (ACU) recently. He says he has the option to leave everything as chaotic as it is and behave like the past ACU presidents, who transferred funds into their personal accounts. But he has chosen to sort out the mess and change things at the continental chess body.

He says he wants to see Africa benefiting from the funds disbursed to continental organisations by FIDE, the world chess governing body. He admits though that it may take a while to re-organise the ACU because the management has been rotten for years. Buthali found out that ACU has been operating without a bank account and FIDE has been pumping money into someone's personal account, which is difficult to trace. "African chess is in chaos.

A lot needs to be done to organise the office first. If the office is in such a mess, how do you expect chess in the various African countries to progress," said a baffled Buthali. He is now trying to find a copy of the ACU constitution, said to be in someone's house in Germany. "I gather that the only person who could still be having a copy of the constitution is a former president of the union, who was based in Germany some 10 years ago. Ever since, the continental body has been operating without a constitution.

When I raised the issue recently after I assumed office, the outgoing president simply said, the congress is the constitution, anything agreed by the congress is constitutional. How can we run a continental office like that? We are not even sure whether some positions in the ACU executive committee are in the constitution," Buthali says. He found out that the outgoing ACU president from Libya is the only one with access to the organisation's funds. "I was personally disappointed that there was no proper handing over.

There were no records, nothing on paper. A continental sports office cannot be run from an individual's house. Often people say that FIDE is not taking care of the sport in Africa. But now I can see clearly why the continent has been lagging behind. It is not really FIDE's problem. It is all because of the way we have been doing things as Africans, and there has not been any accountability.

I think people were just happy to occupy top posts and enjoy the benefits such as traveling and funds for personal use," a shocked Buthali told Mmegi Sport. He plans to meet FIDE president to discuss the establishment of an ACU secretariat as a matter of urgency. Buthali has been an official of the Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) and a member of ACU. He says he would not have known what is going on in the African game, had he not become ACU president.

"Since I started serving in the BCF, I have always been opposed to the idea of running a national office from a house. I have made that clear to all the people I have worked with. So I would not like to run the African chess from my house. I have been given the leverage to opt for the same arrangement that past African chess presidents have been using, so that the African chess funds are transferred into a personal account, but that won't be proper, because it benefits only the individual and his few friends and not Africa," he told Mmegi Sport.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 17 June 2006