THE Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation is pushing to have a stake in the management and control of Government-owned sporting facilities as a panacea to the long-standing turf wars between national associations and the administration manning the arenas.
Venues such as the National Sports Stadium, Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex and Magamba Hockey Stadium are under the management of the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and they have been scenes of clashes between sport and other non-sporting events like music concerts, political rallies and religious gatherings.
Apparently, sports events have been disrupted to pave way for the non-sporting events, which at times have been getting priority ahead of local teams and athletes because they usually pay more for hiring the venue.
However, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry recently said her office was preparing a concept paper to be tabled before Cabinet following discussions with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works. Coventry wants the Ministry of Sport to have a bigger say in the management and control of the facilities.
The former Olympic gold medallist was disturbed by the fact national teams are being made to pay through the nose to use the facilities built by the Government. “We are in a conversation and we are, as a ministry, putting together a concept paper that we will then take to Cabinet to request that we take over management.
“We have also met quite a few Honourable Members of Parliament (recently) for ministry to start figuring out how to take management of the sport facilities; what does that look like; are they joint? “Right now most of our sport facilities fall under Local Government and Public Works and it’s just hard to get access.
“But when we look at the 1995 All-Africa Games, the ministry along with public partners put a lot of money into these facilities that you see. Now they charge us a fortune to use them.
“We have just signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with Bindura University and I made sure in that MOU that we will not pay a cent for our national teams.
“If part of the deal was for Government to put in money to build the infrastructure, why are you then going to charge us to use the facilities for our national A teams? So this is a conversation that has been happening for a long time and I am hoping to try and to speed it up,” said Coventry.
Earlier this year, the senior men’s national football team was denied the opportunity to train at the National Sports Stadium ahead of a key AFCON qualifier against Congo Brazaville by officials manning the giant facility. This followed a stand-off between ZIFA and the Ministry of Local Government over the disbursement of their share from gate-takings.
The Local Government ministry collects a 12 percent levy from gate-takings for the use of the stadium, and they wanted assurances from ZIFA on how they would get their money after the association had introduced a new e-ticketing system.
As a result, the Warriors failed to train on the home turf for the final 2019 AFCON qualifier against Congo, which they went to win 2-0 and booked their berth for finals which were held in Egypt between June and July.
It was the first time the Warriors had failed to train at their home ground going into a home fixture of an AFCON game. Coventry then described the decision to bar the team from training as “disgusting”. Local teams have also fallen prey at times to the other events that compete for the use of the facilities. In 2017, one of the biggest matches on the domestic calendar, the Harare Derby featuring Dynamos and CAPS United was postponed after the stadium was booked for a church gathering.
In fact, some of the facilities are now being used more for activities other than sport. Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex, for example, is now known more as a venue for music shows than swimming and handball for which it was built. Magamba Hockey Stadium has hosted more church gatherings than the game of hockey in the past decade.
The management at the facilities are reportedly making a living out of renting out the facilities. The sad story, however, is that the facilities have been deteriorating over the years due to lack of maintenance.
The National Sports Stadium was recently banned by CAF after failing to meet the minimum requirements to host international matches. Rufaro, which is owned by Harare City Council, has since been condemned, while Mandava also failed the test.
Gwanzura, which also used to host Premiership matches, has been closed for the past three years and there is no hope the ground will open any time soon despite several assurances from the owners, the Harare City Council.
Only Barbourfields was given a special waiver by CAF on their latest inspection last month.Zimbabwe face the embarrassment of having to play their home matches in the 2021 AFCON and 2022 World Cup qualifiers in neighbouring countries next year. Magamba Hockey Stadium and Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex are also in a deplorable state and have not been used for sporting activities for years.
Sport is the biggest loser as most of these facilities, which cost a fortune to set up, have become white elephants.