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Fight for Namibia’s Gymnastics Not Over

The Namibia Gymnastics Federation’s recent recognition by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) does not make it the legitimate national governing body for the sport.

This is according to Namibia Gymnastics’ executive president, Sonja Olivier.

She said this yesterday in reaction to the FIG lifting its suspension of the NGF, recognising the Namibian organisation’s membership.

Olivier’s position indicates that the battle for administrative control of domestic gymnastics is far from over.

In a statement announcing the FIG’s reinstatement, NGF president Sharifa Wentworth claims NamGym is an illegitimate establishment and that her organisation’s position in the long-running dispute has been vindicated by the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF), which rubber-stamped the reversal of the ban.

To add further weight to her claim, Wentworth says the NGF is also recognised by the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC), the Namibia National Olympic Committee (NNOC) and the African Gymnastics Union (UAG).

The NGF is “overjoyed” that the FIG ban was lifted on 8 September, and that the development represents “fairness and justice for our gymnasts”.

“We would like to furthermore reiterate to the Namibian public that the NGF … is the only legally registered and acknowledged national sport body for gymnastics in Namibia, and is now reinstated with the FIG and the UAG,” Wentworth says.

“Any person or club that wishes to register its gymnastics activities under the legal framework of the Namibia Sport Act will as such need to register with the NGF.”

But Olivier, whose organisation, NamGym, is appealing a 2022 High Court judgement that found it to have no legal standing in the country, remains steadfast in her stance that the Wentworth-led body is an unconstitutional association established by suspended NamGym members and non-affiliates.

“Recognition is not the same as legitimacy. The recognition of the NSC, NNOC and the FIG are nullities, given that the meeting of 27 November 2021, which Wentworth relies on to claim that she was and is the president of the NGF, was a fraud,” says Olivier, who is still displayed as the head of gymnastics in Namibia on the FIG website.

“The FIG has stated categorically that it will not communicate independently with Namibian stakeholders. The FIG letter and GEF letter were sent from the GEF.

“We are operational and have always been. Nobody has interdicted us to cease operations. We also state this in the affidavit.”

Despite the ongoing dispute, the FIG has confirmed that the NGF had met all formal requirements, which has led to its suspension being rescinded.

“ . . . the FIG has now confirmed that it deems them valid for purposes of its statutory requirement, the condition upholding the suspension is no longer met.

“As a result, the suspension is lifted, and the Namibian Gymnastics Federation’s FIG membership is reinstated,” GEF director Alexander McLin told Wentworth, Olivier and other stakeholders on Friday.