Minister of Youth and Sports Ulemu Msungama has hinted at abandoning plans to build a new stadium at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre should his ministry’s proposal be approved by relevant authorities and stakeholders.
Instead, the minister said his ministry is planning to propose the demolition of Kamuzu Stadium to build a new one.
In an interview on Tuesday, Msungama said there was no logic in building a new stadium—projected to cost K110 billion— barely a kilometre away from an existing one.
He said: “My suggestion, which I will pursue with relevant authorities and stakeholders, is that we have Kamuzu Stadium which is historically an icon and the way forward should be to demolish it and build a modern facility at the same place. After all, it is centrally located.
“What will be the purpose of building a new stadium when we have another one just a stone throw away which is in a dilapidated state when we can demolish it and build another one, thereby saving resources?”
He also said in its current state, whereby it can only accommodate about 15 000 spectators, Kamuzu stadium is a waste of resources.
Msungama also said Njamba Freedom Park does not have enough space to accommodate a stadium and a sports complex, including an indoor netball court.
“In fact I have been informed that 10 hectares of that land belongs to theCatholic Church. So, realistically it is a nonstarter,” he said.
The minister also said under the circumstances, even the indoor netball court will not be built at the park.
Reacting to the minister’s proposal, football analyst Charles Nyirenda said: “I fully agree with his sentiments. It will cut costs using the same space where Kamuzu Stadium is located to build another stadium.
“Further to that, Kamuzu Stadium premises are centrally located and the majority of people just walk there, it’s also spacious.
“Moreover, the imaginary Njamba Stadium scheme was a political gimmick. Just from the blue people were promised the moon and in the end, the project wasn’t on the official government infrastructure development agenda. No wonder, the project is just fizzling out the way it popped up.”
However, another football analyst Humphrey Mvula suggested that before proceeding with the new thinking, the minister should consult his Cabinet colleagues to appreciate the ramifications of his decision.
He said: “This is taking into consideration that the old stadium was declared as a monument to be preserved as a heritage. Besides, the social /political implications of having no stadium in Blantyre while a new stadium is being reconstructed will be difficult to mitigate for the people of Southern Region.
“I equally do not understand the cost benefit analysis of building a new stadium on the site of an existing stadium because the cost of demolition will be heavy. As for the Njamba site, government can assign equivalent prime land for the church development programmes because the site would be ideal for a stadium due to its centrality.
“Lastly, I would request the minister to consult widely, including talking to his predecessors to appreciate previous decisions.”
In January this year, the Peter Mutharika administration announced that it had shelved plans to construct a new stadium in Blantyre, opting to prioritise stadia projects for privately-owned teams—Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers.
Government did not allocate funding for the project in the 2019/20 budget. It has also not allocated funds for the same in the current provisional four-month budget.
The project was last allocated funding in the 2018/19 Budget when it got K500 million while in the 2017/18 Budget, it got K1.5 billion for designs and start-up work. However, there is nothing on the ground so far.