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Africa Rising: “Dark Continent” Becomes First to Have Live Presidential Debate

by Tendai Mubayiwa
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On Saturday, 21st July, 2018, Africans witnessed a historic feat in Global Chess as the African Chess Confederation (ACC) presidential election debate took place between the presidential candidates, who are jostling for African Chess’ highest position. This historic event was put together by the team from Africa Chess Media and with the consent of the three (3) candidates in the incumbent Mr. Lewis Ncube (Zambia), Dr. Essoh Essis (Cote d’Ivoire) and Mr. Tshepo Sitale (Botswana). Several African federation presidents and officials also joined in the audience of the debate, to make the success profound.


The Presidential candidates

Now picture this, a tense affair of Africa’s 3 candidates for the Presidency for the very first time meeting up to discuss their vision for African chess with their constituents in a controlled environment!

The entire debate would be divided into 3 phases. Each President would be asked the same six questions then there would be questions from the gallery and lastly each candidate would pick one other candidate and ask them only one question.

Simple enough except that all this would be happening on an instant messaging platform (WhatsApp), what could go wrong, right?

Well, let’s add the wrinkle that one presidential candidate was taking part all the way from Greece Athens, another from Kinshasa in the DRC and the other one was in Zambia.

You would not be faulted for wondering who would come up with such a crazy yet simple and absolutely brilliant idea! The candidates were briefed to submit their election manifestos beforehand so that the questions would be developed around their plans for Africa but by the day of the debate, only Mr Tshepo Sitale and Dr Essoh Essis had submitted theirs. Tshepo Sitale ManifestoTEAM_ESSOH_MANIFESTO_2018[1]


The Africa Chess Media team that moderated the debate consisted of:

  • Bruce Mubayiwa, Co-Founder (Zimbabwe)
  • Ogunsiku Babatunde, Co-Founder and CEO (Nigeria)
  • Olayemi Ajibade, Business Development Executive (Nigeria)
  • Cosmos Chipepo, Director of Content (South Africa)
  • Paras Gudka, Director of Web Operations (Kenya)

Roles were divided as follows: Olayemi and Cosmos presented the questions and ensured the candidates followed rules, Paras kept time and took questions from audience members while the co-founders Bruce and Ogunsiku were responsible for general oversight.

The questions and answers below are what ensued in the debate:


First Question:

Which high performing team have you put together in the past and what do you believe are key ingredients in choosing a team?

Tshepo Sitale: For me, I’ve been part of many teams right from Junior school as Captain of my team that won Senior Schools team championship in chess. Our board 1 was Ignatious Njobvu whom many will know here.

Over time I’ve been part of Botswana Chess Federation as President and now I’m with the Olympic Committee.

Unfortunately or may I say, fortunately, in life, we don’t always get presented with choosing who you want. The secret is to work with all for the common purpose.

Lewis Ncube: When you say in the past are you referring to my current ticket?

Cosmos Chipepo: It can be any team which you feel was well put together and what you thought made them work best.

Essoh Essis: I am pleased to say that my current CIV Chess Federation team is a high performing team since it made CIV the Chess success story it is now. I took people of integrity, that are independent-minded, competent professionally and able to speak truth to power. Otherwise, I run a UN office responsible for peacekeeping and in the DRC, and most of the guys in my team are successful because they have those qualities.

Lewis Ncube: I believe that my best performing team was the one elected in my first term as President of the Chess Federation of Zambia. The desire to succeed and create a new direction for chess in Zambia enabled us to really deliver to the Zambian chess community.

Olayemi Ajibade: Thank you. What are the most important ingredients you considered in choosing them?

Lewis Ncube: Whilst they were elected, we had agreed on the different positions to vie for. The most important I ingredient was teamwork and the ability to appreciate the needs of the Zambian Chess community then.
Everyone in the team had his/her own competency but the critical factor was to harness the individual talents and competencies into an effective working unit.

Second Question:

As an aspiring president, what are your plans to ensure an ACC that is politically, administratively and economically independent?

Essoh Essis: The answer is in my two interviews and my ticket manifesto. I have already started by running as an ACC candidate with no ties to any Fide presidential candidate. Tshepo is running because he claims Makro asked him to. Lewis depending on Arkady for everything and I am standing alone as I stood alone for Gabon and Africa at Tromso 2014.

Tshepo Sitale: Let me clarify that I was approached by fellow African Federations to run, not Makro. It will not make sense for Makro to ask me to run..I believe we are Africa and we define our path. I’ve remained independent and hence the entire FIDE family voted me in 2015 into the Verification Commission.

Essoh Essis: Tshepo said he wanted to run for ACC presidency in 2014 but didn’t because Makro told him not to and to support Lewis. How do we believe that he is not running now Makro asked him too?

Cosmos Chipepo: Please refrain from mentioning the other candidates in your responses sir. We will afford you an opportunity to ask them a question at the end of the session.

Tshepo Sitale: *Politically* by virtue of being Confederation (ACC) we should understand that we are independent. Hence as an organization we elect our own Board. We are at par with other Continental bodies and how we allow FIDE to treat us depends on how we project ourselves.

Administratively, I’ve stated in my Manifesto that I intend to decentralize ACC and have structure where Zones are allowed to do more as they are closer to the Federations and smaller. ACC Board should by nature be an oversight body. IMPORTANTLY! We are to meet annually as Federation Presidents and agree on our annual plan as well as agree how we spend our budget.

Economically, I want to be upfront that Africa should stop begging..we need to reorganize ourselves and maximize the resources we have. If we have ideas worth it, many will sponsor them.

Lewis Ncube: The theme of our team is Empowerment and Sustainability.

In terms of financial independence, our team has negotiated potential working agreements with three major entities that will help build fund raising capacities within each federation.

It is not enough to look at the ACC being independent but the African federations themselves must also be empowered to also avoid being politically manipulated by whoever is also running the ACC.

In this regard our programme involves helping the federations enter into financial agreements that allow them to generate funds for their internal development programmes.

The programmes also involve asset generation by the federations such that each federation can independently enter into financial generating venture with the ACC helping out through a Business Advisory Unit.

Third Question:

Have you failed before and if yes, how did you deal with failure?

Essoh Essis: Of course I have failed before, and my whole life is a success story foundations in the “trial and errors” principle. The key to dealing with failure is to evaluate the results in order to identify what went wrong and seek alternative ways to approach the problem. This is how you learn and grow.

Tshepo Sitale: Failure is part of life and I’ve taken my failures as part of learning. Franklin Roosevelt once said “Take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another. *But by all means, try something*” I take this words to heart..

Lewis Ncube: I would say that dealing with failure is part of the success of life.

I would say that at various times in my chess administrative life I have experienced a certain level of failure but not enough to derail my focus on achieving the necessary goals.

Fourth Question:

What are those things you think can cause you as a President, if elected, to fail?

Essoh Essis: I do not see why an organization should fail when it is lead/managed by a competent administrator who has performed a sound diagnostic of the situation and adopted a workable prognosis. We may not achieve all our desired objectives, but we will certainly build the ACC up for future success.

Tshepo Sitale: What are those things you think can cause you as a President if elected to fail?

My worry is what history has shown over time that as ACC leadership. We have a great awakening during elections and we fade immediately after that.

I hope that this time, Africa will never go back to what has been happening in the past. We need to come together despite our differences, geographic locations and religion and chose to build Chess in Africa. “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” We need to pave the way and put hard work.

Fifth Question:

What is your view on corruption and, are you or any member on your ticket in any way corrupt?

Tshepo Sitale: I can say fortunately…I’m from a country where Corruption is not tolerated and hence we are the least corrupt country in Africa. I hate corruption and this evil called corruption has set Africa backwards. I have a team that represents Africa and are man of Integrity and good standing.

Essoh Essis: Corruption is simply inacceptable in my worldview. I am not corruptible and I am not aware that any member of my ticket is.

Lewis Ncube: Corruption is to be abhorred wherever it surfaces. I can assure you all that none of my current ticket have been proven to be corrupt.

Tshepo Sitale: …and if it happens that any of us here are found to be having corrupt practices I will ask them to step down for the good of all.

Cosmos Chipepo: I note that you are relying on proof of corruption? I note you are relying on awareness?

Essoh Essis: Yes, answers must be truthful. Awareness only leads to remedial actions.

Lewis Ncube: Unless you suggest that accusing someone of being corrupt automatically makes them corrupt, then I believe that we may be talking from different positions. I do not believe that accusing someone of corruption without proof makes that person corrupt.

Tshepo Sitale: Just to chip in! We have Governance Standards that are standard practice around the world, the world have moved on to making sure that they practice good Governance. Whereas as for Corruption, you are immediately jailed and those who have found wanting know they must resign.

Last Question:

What are the keys to translating your vision into reality for African Chess?

Essoh Essis: Dedication and hard work. Active listening and Persuasive ability to bring everyone to work together for the better future. Commitment to both merit- based and compassion towards the least endowed in the distribution of resources. Periodic evaluation of performances (achievements versus desired objectives, corrective actions to feel identified gaps).

Tshepo Sitale: I take I’ve shared our team’s *7 Point Agenda* over a month ago. Because the moment we came together, we had to have ideals and a framework to work within. Hence our *road map*!

Essoh Essis: The ACC is just an organization like billions of others. Competent use of tested best practices of organizational management (a field I am an acclaimed expert in on the world scene) will yield the desired positive results.

Olayemi Ajibade: Kindly break this down for our audience In Practical terms.

Tshepo Sitale: This summarize what we stand for and how we are to set our goals into reality. That of course depends on the involvement of all of us as Africa.

Lewis Ncube: The key to making our team’s vision of Empowerment and Sustainability a reality is ensuring that the African federations we serve are made to understand and appreciate that no one owes us anything and we have to work hard to ensure that we do not look to promises to ensure that our programmes are delivered.

That understanding and appreciation is paramount to getting our federations look to a much better future where no promises will be used to secure their support.

Tshepo Sitale: Our thought process is guided by *People* – We as Africa making things work as Chess communities.

*Process* – establishing systems that programs that will work.

*Product* – Have chess as a game or as I like to say Sport of choice. Chess is more than a game but perceived as a game of the intelligent (let’s Brand it that way)


Question for all from Henrik du Toit, South Africa:

All have given good theoretical answers based on promises how they want the ACC to be independent politically, economically and administratively. Please give us a brief explanation on how you have done this in your own country.

Lewis Ncube: During my time as President of the Chess Federation of Zambia our major sponsors were corporate entities such as banks, insurance companies and oil companies.

The support from the Government came in to supplement this sponsorship.

Essoh Essis: When i was elected FIDEC president in 2014, the federation was in deep lethargy and seriously in debt with FIDE and other individuals or institutions. I hired a team of young business stars and we elaborated a strategic plan for the next four years and yearly budgets for the federation. 4 years later, we had run a balanced budget of over 346000 USD and made CIV a regional Chess powerhouse

Tshepo Sitale: Thank you Sir! When I assumed Botswana Chess Federation Presidency in 2008. After we did our SWOT analysis we immediately realized that we need to deliberately popularize chess which has long been played on schools and sponsored by Debswana as far back as 1985.

1) We built relations with the media and they became partners in the development of chess. Today chess appears on the back page of major national newspapers.

2) Accountability – we audited our books despite the costs

3) Independence – we shared our story and never looked outside for any external help. We traced chess players who were now holding position of influence and asked them to help us, One who is a strategy specialist did a 4 year strategic plan for us and we got our hands dirty working. (No miracles)

4) We did revive structures such as school committees and I decentralized the work and chess was on the roll.

4) Continuity – all leaders who come in are building on what others did, one can’t be re doing things or dismantling the foundations laid by others.

In short chess is now recognized and we have since then had nominations after nominations in Sports Awards.

Tshepo Sitale: I take the little I’ve done can at least give a glimpse of who I am. For me to have fellow Sports Administrators asking you to lead them coming from a non-Olympic Sport like chess counts to something.

Question for all from King Zuru, South Africa:

The marginalized groups (people with disabilities, war-torn countries, the disadvantaged, etc.) have been left out of African chess, what are your plans to bring them on board? (+ budget & implementation plan for it)

Essoh Essis: We have provided answers to this question in our ticket manifesto. We will set up a Developpement commission that will evaluate the situation and provide practical solutions for implementation. I have also mentioned (in my Chess Drum interview) collaborative agreements with UNICEF and UNESCO who I believe would quickly embrace credible solutions that will advance the delivery of their respective global mandates.

Tshepo Sitale: I think we need to utilize resources within FIDE. We have Commissions for Disabled and other marginalized groups. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen any Federation asking for resources to do something. One of the tenants and values in the Olympic family is Inclusion. We need to do more and be inclusive!

Question for Lewis Ncube from Anonymous (by request):

He has had his chance and we’ve seen what he can do (more like what he can’t do) does he not feel that maybe it’s about time he passes the baton to other candidates in order to take African Chess forward?

Question for Tshepo from Japheth Makari, Kenya:

It’s quite normal for leadership to make a multitude of words to cover up the agendas they put across. What tangible assurance do we have to trust what Mr Tshepo is saying? What view does he hold in bringing chess to the grassroots?

Tshepo Sitale: As for Grassroots development the key is identify stakeholders at grassroots such as Teachers, Parents and allow them to handle chess at community and schools level.

Then have mechanisms of identifying talent at young age and developing it systematically. We are equally capable and intelligent enough but we have not built systems and became intentional to harness chess talent.

Questions for all from Victor Ebosse, Cameroon:

  1. What do they think is the key factor that could make chess successfully implemented in schools here in Africa?
  2. What precisely is their strategy to (if in any case they are willing to) financially sustain or develop the national federations in Africa?

Essoh Essis: I have provided clear and detailed questions to these questions (especially the second one) in our ticket manifesto. The MiniChess program in CIV enjoys full ownership by our Education Ministry. Our very well trained and certified teacher have become models for our regular school teacher who recognize the superior quality of their teaching methods.

Lewis Ncube: a. The key to implementing successful chess in school programs is firstly to enlighten the authorities on the benefit of chess as a tool for education and the accompanying benefits.

Thereafter we have to provide the appropriate reward structure such as qualification to represent one’s country as well as scholarship opportunities.

Additional reward structures are further training opportunities for the gifted players to excel beyond the school environment.

  1. The ACC should be working to Empowering the federations to enable them implement the Chess in Schools programs in their areas of responsibility.

The ACC should not be looking to be the implementing entity in each federation.

Question for all from Keenese, Botswana:

I want to know the plans of the candidates regarding development and growth of women and girls in chess as players, officials and administrators. How do they plan to work with individual national chess federations to achieve attraction and retention of women and girls in chess?

Tshepo Sitale: I think the current ACC board did a great thing to sign the Helsinki agreement as set by International Woman Group in Sport. This is a wonderful document that has clear areas of focus and can guide ACC to achieve equality and inclusion of Women.

Essoh Essis: This (women in Chess) is a very special challenge all over Africa because of the structural imbalance of power that is built into our social fabric (see the first point in the list of key challenges provided in our team manifesto). I have been struggling to resolve it in CIV for the last 4 years, with only limited success. But I believe it is possible through persistent efforts in the future.

Cosmos Chipepo: Candidates please prepare a question to each other, ONE question so make it count. Pick your candidate whom you want to ask the question and then proceed to ask him.


Tshepo Sitale: My Question to Lewis is:

1) Before he steps down from Office, how is he going to manage all the debt that has been accumulating from 2015 (Federations and Officials who every day turn up that they are owed money).

2) He has never shared why after indicating that they Support Kirsan, he switched from Kirsan to Dvorkovich.

Cosmos Chipepo: ONE question, sir. Would you like to rephrase?

Tshepo Sitale: It’s direct question that it has turned out that many Federations have hosted ACC events but still accuse ACC leadership of not meeting the financial obligations thought they had agreed.

As for officials, many Arbiters daily come up and say they have officiated in ACC evens but were never paid as far as 2016 till to date.

My question was, how is he to manage ACC debts before the current tenure ends?

Lewis Ncube: I expected a more serious question from Tshepo.

Maybe I was expecting too much.

Firstly, if Tshepo has bothered to read the minutes of the ACC Board Meeting held in Harare last year he will understand that his first question is totally misplaced.

When Tshepo reads the indicated minutes where all he asks has already been dealt with he can come back and ask more serious questions.

Regarding the support for Kirsan and Arkady, I believe that I do not need to explain to Tshepo about whom I choose to support.

Lewis Ncube: Once again please read the minutes of the ACC Board Meeting and you will find your answers conclusively answered.

Tshepo Sitale: I thought for the benefit of the forum you will indicate your position on the matter. Minutes are a summary of what was discussed and I don’t remember any action item on the issue of outstanding debt on the minutes.

Lewis Ncube: If you do not remember any action item, I suggest that you read the minutes again.

Essoh Essis: To Brother Sitale: how do you evaluate the strength of your candidacy without the support of Makropoulos’s? How will you manage to become your own man after he makes you king? “When you’re doing your own thing, even the sky ain’t the limit” said the great Jazz Innovator Miles Davis!

Tshepo Sitale: For me among the 3 candidates at FIDE level, I think Makropoulos has the experience and has deputized Kirsan long enough. There is need for continuity BUT it’s for delegates voting to decide that.

As for the issue that I need Makro to lead Africa, that is a joke! Is he God to dictate what Africa must do. As a Christian I only worship God not man. Ask anyone in FIDE, when approached to be in the Verification Commission I asked them why me, most said you are your own man. If you can be bought, you can be sold and I’m free to agree or disagree with anyone.

We as a People in Africa have to stand up, and realize that FIDE does not owe us, it will take our Federation leaders to start working hard and we shape the Africa we want.

Lewis Ncube: @Tshepo You recently indicated that you had a list of African federation delegates that were bribed by Geoffrey Borg during the 2014 FIDE Elections.

Since the list appears to be a long time in coming, my question relates to your recent sojourn around Africa in company of the same Geoffrey Borg whom you indicated had been bribing African delegates.

How is the African Chess Community expected to view this collaboration between you and Geoffrey Borg?

Tshepo Sitale: I think you can share the list that you used along whomever you did it with. But I’ve decided not to take that route, A day will come when all will be exposed. The Holy book says ‘nothing is hidden under the sun’.

Paras Gudka: Closing statements please.


Tshepo Sitale: In closing! I wish to appeal to Africa, that the rhythm of the drumbeats has changed, our dancing steps must adapt.

We have had a turbulent 4yrs as ACC and we can’t dwell on where we fell but look where we slipped.

Me and my team are of the view we need to;

1) Stop worshipping the west and begging, in our nothingness we can build Chess in Africa. India has turned the corner and chess is on the rise in their land.

2) We must be each brother’s keeper and be worried if a neighbor Federation go to slumber after elections not having Events and Programs

3) We may differ but nothing is personal, we need to agree to disagree.

We remain available to serve you! I am proud to be an African, I will never bow to the West. We are the cradle of mankind as Africa.

Essoh Essis: I want to believe that all the African (federation) Presidents in this forum know all there is to know about the strengths and weaknesses of their three candidates and their respective proposals. I also want to believe that they are able to rise to the occasion and vote for the only leader of the 3 standing before them today that is not going to sell them to any FIDE King. I have fulfilled my duty to Africa, which is to craft and propose an alternative solution to the ones that have plagued us for so long, and to build a strong team that is willing and able to usher in the new era of progress and development for African Chess, through self-reliance, good governance, and best-practices in organizational management.

The responsibility is now on them, and on them only, to make their best move.

Lewis Ncube: I wish to thank all those that have participated in this debate.

As for my team’s dedication to the cause of Africa chess, I assure you that each and every member is fully conversant of the challenge at hand but we truly believe that should the Africa delegates entrust us with the sought mandate, African chess will never look back.

Thank you once again.

By the end of the debate it appeared that the candidates could have continued for at least
another hour as there were still quite a bit to be discussed. The moderator had to close off proceedings after almost 3 hours of intense debate but it was quite clear that the presidential candidates still had quite a lot to say.

Not all questions from the debate were answered and the questions from delegates that could not be asked would be forwarded to the candidates and they promised to respond to all.

It was, however now time to call it a night and reflect on an incredible and eventful evening.

The debate had lasted close to 3 hours; this despite being scheduled for only two hours. In the social
media group there were at least 232 members still rapt with attention who had joined the newly created group to tune into the debate. An unedited transcript of the debate has been produced which can be viewed on this link.

Country flags

This debate was not only a first in Africa but we believe first across the entire world. We don’t
believe such a debate between the continental presidential candidates for HS body has ever
been held anywhere in the world!

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