Ten schools have lost out on K44 million ($100 000) mini-chess projects which South Africa’s Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa (KCF-A) has withdrawn following the Chess Association of Malawi’s (Chessam) snubbing of the foundation’s patron Garry Kasparov’s presidential bid.
KCF-A has demanded back the project’s equipment meant for the schools, accusing Chessam, through its president Kezzie Msukwa, of undermining Kasparov in the build up to the International Chess Federation (Fide) presidential elections, which he eventually lost 110-61 to incumbent Fide president Kirsan Illyuminhov.
Chessam voted for Illyuminhov in the August 2014 polls, but Msukwa insists it was a collective executive committee decision arrived at after an internal vote which registered 8-3 votes in favour of the incumbent Fide president.
KCF-A director Graham Jurgensen insisted that the withdrawal was not related to the elections, but admitted encountering resistance from Chessam senior members, including Msukwa “who actively campaigned against the implementation of the programme and….informed members of his executive that this was simply an election gimmick.”
“Now that the foundation has announced a decision to move the equipment elsewhere, the same members of the Chessam executive are the first to complain that we are being unfair to their players and children. Our policy as a foundation is that we will only work with the national chess federations when rolling out to new countries,” said Jurgensen, adding that the equipment was never officially handed over to Chessam, hence remains the foundation’s property.
KCF-A, which launched the project in Malawi mid last year during Kasparov’s campaign through its local coordinator former Chessam general secretary Leonard Sharra, re-claimed the equipment from a Lilongwe school to a warehouse.
Sharra has, through a September 8 2014 leaked report which Weekend Nation has seen, accused Msukwa of bulldozing his way into having Malawi support Illyuminhov while ignoring many benefits Chessam enjoyed during its brief romance with KCF-A. Msukwa denies the allegations.
Sharra has since refused to surrender the equipment to Chessam, saying he will await KCF-A’s direction. He has owned the report over the project whose pilot phase was scheduled from May 2015 to September 2015.
“The Chessam president must stop pressing for release of the equipment from the custodians, knowing well he is the one who has contributed to all this mess. He should wait for an amicable decision to be reached by the involved parties,” Sharra wrote when responding to Chessam vice-president Mark Chikoko’s query to him and former publicity secretary Gilton Mkumbwa over the equipment.
“May I take advantage of this communication to advise my good friends in the Chessam executive to avoid being used by the president as pawns. Chessam board members should be strong enough to provide checks to the president and avoid boot-licking to gain favours for trips and other benefits from the president. Nepotism should also have no room in the executive and the chess family.”
In a response to Weekend Nation’s questionnaire, Msukwa insisted that the project did not start; hence, it has not necessarily been withdrawn. He said the foundation donated chess items to schools, but Sharra took the equipment on September 7 2014 from a Lilongwe school where it was kept.
“It’s correct, we need Leonard to give back equipment to Chessam because he acted in an office where he did not belong. We will need it. Mini-chess is not something new. It is actually chess in schools,” Msukwa complained, claiming the KCF-A has also withdrawn projects in other countries where it did not receive votes.
“Regarding all sorts of accusations levelled I feel the pain is too much on the accuser because of the loss of his candidate. Ever heard of Kezzie being nepotistic? I have never been and will never be. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chikoko asked Leonard in the meeting whether the donation was linked to Malawi needing to vote for Kasparov before we voted and he said no they were not linked.”
Meanwhile, Massa general secretary Blackson Malamula pleaded with KCF-A that if it has lost trust in Chessam, the foundation should work with Massa “as the withdrawal of the project will have an adverse effect on chess in schools and the nation as a whole. The nursery is killed.”
Among others, Sharra claims that KCF-A sponsored Msukwa and a team of four players to the Commonwealth Chess Championship in Durban, Gerald Mphungu’s participation at the World Amateur Chess Championship in Singapore, as well as offered to pay annual subscription for Chessam to Fide but Msukwa asked Kirsan to pay the fees.
KCF-A1 offered to pay for air tickets for Malawi chess teams to Norway, so did the illyuminhov.
KCF-A sponsored two Chessam board members to attend a Mini-chess Training in Tanzania and offered to sponsor international competitions involving Grandmasters in Malawi. KCF-A also sponsored an air ticket for Mkumbwa to attend last year’s Fide Annual Congress in Estonia.
KFC-A equipment included chess boards, chess sets with boxes, learner workbooks, demonstration boards, giant chess sets, learner workbooks, educator guide files, educator aid kits, adult beginner guides
Targeted beneficiary primary schools were Chichiri (Blantyre), Blantyre Girls (Blantyre), Blantyre Baptist (Blantyre), Mwandama (Zomba), St Agness (Zomba), Gala (Zomba),Kamuzu Barracks (Lilongwe), Lilongwe LEA (Lilongwe), SOS (Lilongwe), and Katoto (Mzuzu).
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