BY HENRY MHARA
The Local Government ministry has blamed the Finance ministry for not allocating money for the refurbishment of the National Sports Stadium, one of the three main football facilities that have been banned from hosting international football matches.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation yesterday, acting Local Government secretary Joseph Mhakayakora said his ministry had not received any funding towards the refurbishment of the National Sports Stadium from Treasury.
He was giving oral evidence on the state of the local sporting facilities following the condemnation of the National Sports Stadium, Barbourfields and Mandava Stadiums – from hosting Confederation of African Football (Caf) matches.
The Sports ministry and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) also gave their oral evidence on the issue, while Zifa failed to pitch up.
Last months’ ban left the country facing an embarrassing prospect of hosting the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Algeria outside its borders.
“Over the years, there hasn’t been any allocation whatsoever from the Ministry of Finance,” Mhakayakora bemoaned. “The last major maintenance that we saw at the National Sports Stadium was 10 years ago when we closed the stadium and used the Chinese grant to maintain the stadium. That’s why it is in this state. We have not received anything from the fiscus.”
The government, through the Local Government ministry owns the National Sports Stadium, which was condemned last year for failing to meet the minimum Caf requirements to host international matches.
Barbourfields Stadium, which was condemned last month, is owned by the Bulawayo City Council, while Mandava in Zvishavane is owned by the local council.
They have all been accused for neglecting the stadiums.
Mhakayakora added: “We knew as ministry last year and years before that the stadium needs maintenance. Most of the issues that have been mentioned in the Caf letter, we bid for funds for that from Treasury. This last financial year alone, we bid for $234 million from the Ministry of Finance to uplift the stadium so that it can meet the international required standards. Bucket seats alone requires US$9,6m,” he said.
“We also created a stadia fund three years ago so that we retain 15% from the gate takings. It is that 15% and other activities which take place at the stadium which we use to maintain the stadium. We don’t get much money.
matches on their own don’t bring any money… it’s very little. And if there are international matches, we are owed money which the Auditor-General has mentioned every now and again from Zifa. After a match they don’t want to pay,” he said.
Mhakayakora said they had since received $22 million from Treasury for the stadium’s facelift and work on the facility had already started.
Bulawayo City Council also received $13 million from the government for Barbourfields’ renovations and just like the Local Government ministry, are also working on a crash programme to rectify the anomalies in the hope that the ban is lifted before March 29 when the Warriors are expected to host Algeria.
Things that need urgent attention include sprucing up the playing surface, fixing team benches, renovating the dressing rooms, putting doping control and first aid rooms, installation of floodlights that meet Caf requirements as well as setting up media facilities.