Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
BOTSWANA-based show jumper, Tholakele Sibanda has seen his stock rise in the sport after representing Botswana at a regional competition held in May.
Sibanda featured for Botswana’s equestrian team during the 2018 International Federation for Equestrian (FEI) Group IX Inter Africa Equestrian Cup in Gobabis, Namibia. Sibanda, popularly known as Tollie, took second position in the 110m competition while Botswana also took overall second place.
The show jumper, who moved to Botswana over 10 years ago, has previously been a reserve for Botswana’s team during regional competitions.
“I am still a Zimbabwean citizen but since I am based that side and the competition allow for non-nationals to represent a country I have been drafted into Botswana’s team. This was the second time I was part of their team but the first instance in which I competed as previously I was a reserve. We did well coming second and I was also happy with my performance,” he said.
“My former colleagues in Zimbabwe told me they could not make the competition due to financial constraints.”
Other countries that took part in the Group IX Inter Africa Equestrian Cup include South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Mauritius. Sibanda is based in Francistown, where he is a riding instructor, horse trainer and also trades in horse shoes while taking time to do show jumping in between.
Sibanda (43) said he started horse riding at the tender age of nine after being introduced to the sport by his mother’s employers.
“My mother was employed as a domestic worker by a white family that used to stay in Burnside in the early 1980s so I grew up staying with her at their residence. The family was involved in breeding horses and they raised me as one of their children so when their children would go for horse riding I would join them. I fell in love with horses, after leaving Gifford High School, I took it as my career and have been working around horses all my life,” he said.
Sibanda worked at Ascot Racecourse where they would groom and train horses during the week while also doing show jumping. He then later moved to the Southern Equestrian Centre where he worked as a manager.
Sibanda has represented the country and won several trophies locally in show jumping which used to take place at the Trade Fair grounds and fondly remembers being presented his first trophy by late Vice-President, Joshua Nkomo in 1988.
He said the sport, being a sport dominated by white people, there were times when he would face discrimination on grounds of colour but managed to gain respect due to his performances.