Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Francis Phiso has revealed that construction of the national stadium in Blantyre will start next year.
He said funds for the first phase of the construction will be allocated in the next National Budget.
Phiso said government has so many sports projects to handle this year; hence, could not start the national stadium project this year.
The minister cited construction of stadia for privately-owned football teams Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers, indoor netball court project in Blantyre, rehabilitation of Kamuzu Institute of Sports (KIS) and construction of Mzuzu Youth Centre.
Phiso said this on the sidelines of a consultative meeting on sports sponsorship which his ministry had with the corporate world in Mzuzu.
“Be assured that the Blantyre National Stadium project will be implemented. We will roll out the construction work next year because its funds will be allocated in the next financial year,” he said.
When asked to justify why the ministry is prioritising other projects that came after the national stadium construction, the minister said: “First, let me acknowledge that there is acute shortage of stadiums in Blantyre.
“So, what we have done is to find a short-term solution; hence, the construction of the two stadia [for Bullets and Wanderers] . You may wish to know that the construction of the national stadium will require a huge amount of money while the budget for the two stadia will not be that huge.
“Secondly, the construction of the national stadium will take longer since we want to have a modern facility which can take over 50 000 spectators.”
“We should also not forget that at the moment Kamuzu Stadium is also available for both local and international games.”
The minister said the national stadium is still a priority and will be constructed.
In December last year, Phiso’s predecessor Grace Chiumia attributed the delay of the project to concerns raised by some quarters that the site at Njamba Freedom Park was water-logged.
However, the then ministry’s principal secretary Joseph Mwandidya later said the issue has been dealt with and that the project would proceed.
“We have agreed with Blantyre City Council, Malawi Housing Corporation and Department of Lands that the project can go ahead at the proposed site.
“In determining a site, we also look at the catchment area and location because Fifa rules require that it should not be built far from an airport, hospital and a good hotel,” he said then.
President Peter Mutharika promised construction of a new stadium in Blantyre when he campaigned for presidency prior to the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.
In the 2018/19 National Budget, the new stadium, which is projected to cost about K110 billion, was allocated K500 million for designs.
In the previous budget, it was allocated K1.5 billion for designs and start-up work, but part of it was diverted towards Kamuzu Stadium rehabilitation.