The Parliamentary Committee on Social and Community Affairs has queried the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development’s decision to opt for partial maintenance of Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre instead of full rehabilitation as approved by Parliament.
The committee’s chairperson Richard Chimwendo Banda has since said the committee will summon the ministry to explain the reasons behind the change of plan.
Parliament approved a K1.5 billion allocation to the facility for complete rehabilitation works and the purchase of a new artificial turf in the 2017/18 National Budget.
The stadium was closed because, among others, the facility posed a risk to the lives of the public due to some stands that developed cracks and could easily collapse any time. It was also noted the toilets were in deplorable state and the pitch was not playable as the artificial turf had outlived its lifespan, thereby becoming a hazard to football players.
However, the current works have excluded the fortifying of the stands as much focus is on refurbishing the toilets, improving the drainage system and repainting the stands.
As regards the artificial turf, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila announced recently that they have purchased a new one to be installed by January 2018.
But Chimwendo-Banda argued yesterday: “The money allocated to the stadium was meant for full rehabilitation works, including reinforcement of the terraces. It will be dangerous to the public to do maintenance works at the facility without considering the main aspects of the renovations.”
He said the rehabilitation exercise is not only meant to make the facility beautiful, but to ensure the safety of the public.
“We will summon the ministry to give us a good explanation for not conducting full renovations as approved by Parliament because it will be very risky once the stadium is opened without some main components of the works not being taken care of,” said Chimwendo Banda.
Nevertheless, director of sports in the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Jameson Ndalama said after evaluating the project, it was crucial to do some quick maintenance works on the stadium so as to make it usable as soon as possible because the main problem was to do with the pitch.
“Indeed, some stands had problems but because of the cordoning off of some terraces and the reduction of the stadium’s capacity, the focus turned to making sure some areas such as the drainage system are in order,” he said.
“It was felt that if there are some additional works, they will be done in the next phase. The cordoned-off areas will remain the same as the facility will be opened for matches.”
Soccer analyst George Kaudza-Masina agreed with Chimwendo Banda that it will be suicidal to reopen the stadium without rehabilitating the stands, considering the behaviour of some soccer lovers at the facility at times.
“Even with the cordoned-off stands, the facility will still be a ticking time bomb to lives of soccer lovers. As you know, fans celebrate goals or anything exciting by jumping and dancing on the terraces. Therefore, leaving the stands unattended to is suicidal. After all, priority should have been the stands,” he said.
It is expected that it would take at least three months, since September, for the current maintenance works at Kamuzu Stadium to be completed.
But Blantyre soccer giants Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets said, while not wanting to get involved in how the current rehabilitation works are being carried out, all they want is the stadium to be ready as early as possible.
“This season has been a huge drain financially and a logistical nightmare because we play all our games ‘away’. So our plea is: please, give us back our stadium at the earliest time possible,” said Wanderers general secretary Mike Butao.
“Nevertheless, the season is already over and it does not make sense to try and get the works finalised by end of the year. We need to have the facility ready at least by end of March next year. That should give the government enough time to complete all the rehabilitation works.”