Youth Games puzzle

HARARE - A wall of silence has gone up around the money used towards the hosting of the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games, with questions posed by this paper for three months being blatantly ignored or evaded.

Organises of the games, being held in Bulawayo, have refused divulge information to the Daily News despite numerous requests over the past three months, with this paper seeking to know exactly how much in terms of funding was released by Government and how it has been used.

Figures of between $9 million and $43 million have been thrown around, but organisers have kept a tight lid on actual figures.  

There has been significant refurbishment of facilities in Bulawayo, but authorities’ foot-dragging over disclosure of expenses and budget breakdown had raised eyebrows in the Zimbabwean sporting fraternity. 

Attempts to contact key figures of the games have failed to shed light on how much was availed from Government or the African Union (AU). The games are carried out under the auspices of the AU, a union consisting of 54 African states.

The Daily News first sent written questions to Sports Minister Andrew Langa on September 5, long before the games started, requesting to know, among others things, how much had been released for the games.

Langa’s mobile phone has repeatedly been unreachable. 

The e-mail was copied to Kenny Ndebele, who we erroneously understood at the time to be Local Organising Committee (LOC)’s chief executive. Ndebele is in fact is the games’ marketing manager.

In our query, we wanted to know the actual figures released for the games, and we also requested the project document Langa presented at a function in Bulawayo before the games.

We wanted to know the breakdown of the figure, and we also wanted to know how much, if any, had come from the AU coffers.

We resent the questions again five days later. Again, it was ignored – this time for three months until we attempted to get answers again on December 5.

The latest query was followed up with a phone call to Ndebele, who clarified his actual role to us. Ndebele, who is also the CEO of the Premier Soccer League, duly directed us to the games’ actual CEO, Elkanah Dube.

Efforts by our Bulawayo bureau to have Dube shed more light were not successful, and yesterday his phone kept being answered by someone else who was unable to help.   

Our inquest then took us to African Union Sports Council Region 5 secretary-general Mvuzo Mbebe, seeking to know how much the continental bloc has poured into the games.

On December 3, we wrote to Mbebe requesting breakdown of budget, and also asked if he was satisfied with Bulawayo’s readiness.

There was no response and we duly re-forwarded on December 9, followed by a phone call to Mbebe to confirm receipt of both queries.

“I’m now back in South Africa, I saw your questions and forwarded to Stanley Mutoya, he should be able to respond to you.”

Mutoya is the games’ general manager, and when he reached him yesterday, he said: 

“The government undertook the infrastructural development for these games. On how much they put? I cannot answer on behalf of government. You would have to get hold of the Minister of Sport.

“As for the contribution from the region, the region is not me. If you understand, from the Olympics, you would know that every member country pay certain fee for every athlete attending.

“In this case every member country from the 10 countries in the region are paying $66 for every athlete. That money meets operational costs.

I can tell you that there 1417athletes at the games; 553 male athletes, 440 female, 269 coaches…I am rushing for another meeting, I can respond to you further by e-mail.”

Having given the Ministry of sports and the organisers reasonable time to respond credibly, we decided to run with this story in the hope of getting answers.

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