There is uncertainty over the indoor netball court as the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has not come out clear on where and when the facility will be constructed.
The project was allocated K200 million for in the 2019/2020 National Budget, but half-way through the financial year, the ministry’s spokesperson Symon Mbvundula said in an interview they are yet to identify the actual site.
“Consultations on the court’s designs have started, but we are yet to make a final decision on the place where to build the facility as a number of plots in Lilongwe and Blantyre have been proposed. However, it is very likely that it would be constructed at Njamba Freedom Park near where the Blantyre Stadium is expected to be erected,” he said.
“We will soon engage NAM [Netball Association of Malawi] to show them the designs so that when they give their input, normal procedures should start. You know, procurement process takes time. We will start advertising for contractors to express interest.”
When asked if all that would be done within this financial year which ends on June 30 2020, Mbvundula said: “Well, I cannot recall the actual timeline, but there is an allocation of money for preliminary works and we are hopeful this would be done before the financial year ends.”
The development casts doubts on whether the project will start within this financial year considering that previously, the project had been allocated funding in the national budget.
In the 2011 financial year, the much-awaited indoor netball court was allocated K250 million, but nothing happened in the end.
The state-of-the-art facility was initially planned to be part of the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, but government later backtracked on its earlier plans.
Malawi Queens have failed to host top overseas national teams such as England and Jamaica because lacking an international standard netball facility yet.
Despite their successes, the Queens, who are the pride of the nation, use the Blantyre Youth Centre netball court that leave both players and spectators baked under the scorching sun and drenched during rains.
NAM president Khungekile Matiya said they are hopeful that the government would, this time around, live up to its word to build the facility.
“This is a long-overdue project and the most important facility that the country needs at present. The Malawi Queens can improve on the rankings if we are able to invite top teams and that would only be possible if we have an indoor court,” she said.
“Recently, the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture [Francis Phiso] assured us that this will be done and we are just keeping our fingers crossed. It is only after the land is identified that we can be able to push for the project because we do not want a repeat of previous scenario, whereby funds remained idle and was used for other pressing projects.”
Previously, other sports projects such as the Mzuzu Youth Centre and Kamuzu Institute for Sports in Lilongwe, which have been allocated K500 million each this financial year, have also been facing similar challenges, whereby funding was being allocated but nothing happened on the ground.
The construction of an indoor netball court has been a mere song for the past decade since former President the late Bingu wa Mutharika made the initial promise in 2009.
Then, the former President had to remind the Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) of his pledge and even threatened to withdraw if NAM failed to submit its plans. But, unfortunately, Mutharika passed on before the project could materialise; leaving the colour dream to the next government.
In 2017, government seemed to have a reprieve when the Rach Family Trust, through its chairperson Rav Rach, came with a daring promise to construct a K2 billion indoor court after signing a K600 million sponsorship contract with NAM.