Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Grace Chiumia on Thursday acted swiftly to thwart plans by some Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets supporters to march in protest against the delay by government to kick-start the construction of their stadia as promised by President Peter Mutharika.
A well-placed source confided to Weekend Nation that the minister called for the meeting after getting wind of the development.
Chiumia then summoned the domestic football powerhouses’ executive and main supporters committees’ to a meeting in Lilongwe to assure them of government’s commitment on the project.
The source said the minister was accompanied by her ministry’s principal secretary Joseph Mwandidya, the Nomads were represented by their chairperson Gift Mkandawire and his supporters committee counterpart Melvin Nkunika while the People’s Team was represented by chief executive officer Fleetwood Haiya and supporters’ director Stone Mwamadi.
Both the minister and PS were not available for comment yesterday, but while confirming that the meeting indeed took place, the ministry’s spokesperson Christina Mkutumula said she did not have the details.
However, Nkunika confirmed the meeting, saying their concern was lack of an update from the government side.
“What came out clearly during the meeting was that there was a communication breakdown as we [the clubs] were not being updated on the progress on the promised projects, probably because the President delegated a number of stakeholders.
“We [also] made efforts to get the actual timeframe, but our attempts did not materialise as the minister and the PS insisted that there would be progress next month [April], which is just a few days away anyway and we will just wait to see what comes up,” he said.
The Nomads top fan also confirmed an intention by “a section of the team’s fans to march, but following the meeting with the minister, we will ask them not to proceed so as to give dialogue a chance following the fruitful meeting that we had”.
On his part, Mkandawire described the meeting as fruitful, saying: “We really thank government, the minister and her PS for opening the door for dialogue. We believe with such interactions, football will be the winner. We [also] briefed the minister on the specific huddles which teams meet.”
On his part, Mwamadi also described the meeting as fruitful.
“The minister tried to address all the concerns we had, in particular the stadia and she assured us that next month [April], government will finalise everything and handover the sites to the teams,” he said.
Haiya said he would comment on the issue later.
Mutharika pledged to construct stadiums for the two age-old rivals in January this year and tasked Blantyre City Council, Malawi National Council of Sports and the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development with the project.
Two days after the President issued the directive at a pubic rally, the two teams addressed a press conference in Blantyre where they announced that they had identified land for the projects in Ngumbe near Kameza Roundabout along Zalewa Road (for Bullets) and Chichiri (for Wanderers), respectively.
But government snubbed the sites and instead identified land in Soche and Moneymen area for Bullets and Wanderers, respectively. n