Zim stadia 'shameful'

HARARE - A government minister has strongly condemned the appalling state of Zimbabwe’s football stadia, describing them as derelict eyesores that prevent the country from hosting continental competitions.

In a frank assessment of the venues which have endured years of under-investment compounded by lack of political will, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the country’s unkempt stadia were a sad indictment on the country’s leadership.

“Our stadiums are in a terrible state,” Kasukuwere said in his address to local councils, town clerks and engineers during a local government meeting in Harare on Monday.

“Our National Sports Stadium was built 30 or so years ago by the Chinese and has only undergone minor renovations since then.

“I recently flew over Rufaro Stadium, I saw them renovating but we can’t really call it renovating because it’s a combination of work and disaster.”

Zimbabwe has never hosted a major football competition like the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals with the Confederation of African Football (Caf) striping the country of its rights to host the 2000 tournament.

Caf said the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) did not have a government guarantee and poor facilities were also cited when the decision was made.

In 2014, the then Cuthbert Dube led Zifa board submitted a bid to host the 2017 Afcon but again Caf flatly threw out Zimbabwe’s bid in the first round.

Caf emphasised that due to the limited time frame for the organisation of the tournament, the Executive Committee was only focusing on a host with acceptable infrastructure.

The facilities which were required included Caf standard stadia, training grounds, accommodation and communication.

Kasukuwere was particularly disappointed with the sorry state of Sakubva Stadium, a facility which has no VIP section, no Internet, no media centre, inadequate parking with players having to contend with an uneven playing surface.

“ . . . Can we go down in history as having failed to build our nation Zimbabwe?” he questioned.

“Our kids will one day ask chamaka vakawo chii (Our children will one day ask us ‘what did you build?’) . . . We have to do something about it,” Kasukuwere said.

Adding that: “I don’t believe in the notion that there are limited resources, just look at Strive Masiyiwa who is generating millions of dollars through Econet.

“Everyone in the rural areas knows of EcoCash . . . So it’s not about limited resources, I think it’s down to misplaced priorities; we invest our money where it does not benefit us at an individual level and collectively.”

It was not immediately clear what actions Kasukuwere and his ministry were taking to address the problem which has been dogging the country for some time now.

Besides old and dilapidated stadia, the country is also currently let down by an unclean and unsafe road network, littered with potholes.

There is also a lack of an efficient public transport system, water and electricity supplies and need for decongesting the capital city if the country entertains any hopes of meeting the Caf standards.

Zimbabwe is also the only country in the whole of southern Africa without a fully furnished bucket seat stadium with supporters having to follow proceedings while seated on concrete stands.

Worryingly, if there is a stampede at Rufaro Stadium, there is a likelihood that many people will die as the country’s most popular football venue still uses medieval turnstiles.

Barbourfields Stadium, Bulawayo: Capacity — 30 000. It underwent renovations for the African Union Region Five Games that were staged in December 2015 but still needs a lot of work. The media centre needs proper Internet facilities and furniture.

National Sports Stadium, Harare: Capacity — 60 000, grass surface, bumpy pitch, media centre needs major improvement and working Internet services, 24 hours a day.

Rufaro Stadium, Harare: Capacity — 35 000, currently undergoing renovation to remove artificial turf and replacing it with grass. There is need for properly-designated parking, new turnstiles and in addition to a proper media centre.

Mandava Stadium, Zvishavane:  Capacity — 15 000, media centre needs Internet services that are fully operational. Need for adequate parking space outside the venue. A part of the stadium needs to be integrated into the rest of the venue and can take an extra 5 000 fans, bringing the total to 20 000.

A four-star or three-star hotel is needed nearby in order to host continental games.

Ascot Stadium, Gweru: No VIP, no Internet, no media centre, no parking, no accommodation, bumpy pitch.

Sakubva Stadium, Mutare: No VIP, no Internet, no media centre, no parking, bumpy pitch.

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