In the countdown to the May 20 Tripartite Elections, the country’s major political parties have unveiled plans aimed at developing sports in the country.
One common factor People’s Party (PP), United Democratic Front (UDF), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are pledging, is proper funding and infrastructure development.
But what remains to be seen is whether they will be able to walk the walk.
While appreciating government contribution towards sports development, the Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) and some major sports associations have said their expectation is a government which will fulfil its promises for the good of sports.
In its manifesto, PP says as part of its transformative agenda, it will seek to harness the country’s artistic, cultural and sports heritage to become an integral part of development process.
“To this end, the PP government will complete the construction of the national stadium [in Lilongwe] and build new ones in Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu; and also upgrade sports and recreation facilities in each district.
“PP will also foster involvement of private sector in the sponsorship of sports,” reads part of the manifesto.
PP also pledges to train more teachers in physical education (PE) both at primary and secondary school level.
DPP has not yet released its manifesto, but its publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi yesterday said should they form the next government, they will continue from where they stopped two years ago.
“You might be aware that the state-of-the-art national stadium under construction in Lilongwe was our project and we also launched the Presidential Initiative on Sports (PIS) aimed at identifying and developing talent in various sports disciplines. We would want to continue from there,” said Dausi.
He also said DPP will renovate Kamuzu and Mzuzu stadiums, apart from constructing a new one in Blantyre.
“Investing in infrastructure development will also be a priority. We would want to construct modern netball, basketball and tennis courts and DPP wants to invest in youth development by, among other things, setting up academies and rejuvenating sports in schools by training physical education (PE) teachers and district sports organisers.
“It all hinges on coordination between ministries of Sports and Education. The DPP recognises that sports plays a major role in the development of the country in that it helps to bring people together irrespective of political, cultural and religious differences,” he said.
Dausi also said DPP will see to it that there will be a diverse approach on how the corporate world can be wooed to support sports.
UDF publicity secretary Ken Ndanga said his party will review funding to ensure that sports disciplines are funded adequately.
“The emphasis will be to invest in talent identification and development. We will introduce academies. We will ensure that we touch lofty heights in football, which is the most popular sport. Netball has been making the country proud, but it does not get the necessary support; no wonder our national team fails to break into the top four.
“Even in other sporting disciplines such as boxing, tennis and hockey, we have the potential, but they do not get the required support. The UDF government will find means to change that,” said Ndanga.
He also said infrastructure has been overlooked by government due to wrong priorities and the UDF government will turn all that around.
MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, a former Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) board chairperson, promised to respond to Weekend Nation’s questionnaire, but he had not done so by press time.
But in its draft manifesto, MCP pledges to promote a wide range of art, sporting and cultural activities through proper funding and development of elaborate policies.
“[MCP] will encourage private sector involvement in art, sports and cultural development without undue government interference.
“We will also promote establishment of facilities for the youth in various art, sporting and cultural activities, so that they become reliable citizens,” reads the draft manifesto in part.
However, MOC president Oscar Kanjala said youth and sports are important players in national development, hence the need for political parties to prioritise them.
“Some tend to believe you can delink sports from politics, but sports is always part of politics. For us, it is important for parties to do what they promise and that is why towards the end of 2012, we engaged politicians through the parliamentary committee on social welfare so that they understand what we do and our expectations, that was the starting point.
“But the unfortunate thing is that after campaign, parties neglect the youth. However, we are happy that they are considering sports development,” said Kanjala.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu said their expectation is that whichever party comes into power will support football and sports in general.
“We hope they will support football as a competitive sport and not as a social event where they must try to make football a shining star around the world, they must help us challenge honours,” said Nyamilandu.
On her part, Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Rosy Chinunda said: “In all fairness, since my involvement in sports from the 1980s, government has tried its part, but perhaps the challenge has been how to entice the private sector to support sports to the expected standards. Our expectations are that funding will be reviewed to be in line with the demands. Otherwise, promises have been there, but the challenge has been to fulfil them.”