Renovations on the dilapidated Kamuzu Stadium will commence next month with some minor repairs, the Ministry of Sports and Culture has disclosed.
The ministry’s spokesperson Christopher Mbukwa said during the week they have been allocated K100 million ($169,546) under the 2015/16 Public Sector Investment Plan for the minor repairs and, funds permitting, sometime next year they will start major refurbishments such as the erection of two more stands and the enhancing of the weak terraces.
Responding to a questionnaire, Mbukwa said the entire project for the stadium renovations will require a total budget of close to K6 billion ($10,172,800).
“Minor renovations will include repairing the dressing rooms, VIP seats, toilets, fence and some gates. However, these repairs are dependent
on uninterrupted flow of monthly funding considering that government has got so many obligations other than sports,” Mbukwa said.
He said other areas such as construction of another car park, two more access roads to the stadium and the replacement of the tattered turf are the other major renovations required.
“For sure if the ministry can secure enough financial resources we will demolish the stands and have new ones erected. However, the strengthening or the reinforcing of the existing stands would be considered as well,” said Mbukwa.
“Nevertheless, the plan to buy new artificial turf hinges on the availability of funds. Upon realisation of these funds, the ministry would move very quickly to replace the turf with a new one.”
However, he said this does not mean plans to construct a new stadium in Blantyre have been dumped because these are two different projects. President Peter Mutharika promised to build a new national stadium in the commercial city during a rally in Blantyre early this year.
“But I cannot comment on the new stadium project now as many items such as financiers, location and total cost are yet to be concretised,” he said.
Mbukwa was reacting to a Weekend Nation inquiry into Sports and Culture Minister Grace Chiumia’s statement early this year that plans to renovate the stadium and construct a new one in Blantyre had been shelved until the construction of the state-of-the-art Bingu Stadium is completed. The 40 500-seater Chinese-funded stadium has been finalised and is set to be handed over to government on November 30.
“We have been allocated K150 million for minor renovations on both Kamuzu Stadium and Kamuzu Institute for Sports. K50 million is for the Institute for Sports. Meanwhile, we are making bills of quantities and we will identify the contractor for these renovations in a few days,” he said.
Government structural engineers condemned Kamuzu Stadium three years ago when serious cracks were discovered in most of the open stands. The development led to the closure of the facility by former sports minister Enoch Chihana on the grounds that it was a hazard to society.
Recently, Kamuzu Stadium was condemned and declared unfit to
host international matches by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) due to the rickety stands and thread-bare Astroturf. However, the world football governing body, Fifa, allowed the Flames to host Tanzania during the World Cup qualifier on October 11 after an inspection by Fifa envoy Joseph Nkole from Zambia proved the pitch could host international games until this December.
This means that if Kamuzu Stadium is not renovated or a new stadium is not constructed, the commercial city will no longer have a feel of Flames’ competitive matches.
Despite that, Kamuzu Stadium has not been stopped from hosting domestic matches. The facility, however, faces more challenges with some football players complaining that they get bruised when playing on the outdated artificial turf.
Meanwhile, Blantyre-based age-old rivals Be Forward Wanderers and Big Bullets have intensified their campaign of securing land for the construction of their own pitches, which will be gradually developed from training grounds into fully-fledged stadiums for competitive matches.
“This is really the time our team finally owned a pitch. This is why we are doing our best to acquire land from the Ministry of Lands and Housing. We already presented our land ownership bid to the ministry and we are just waiting for a response this month. Once we get that nod, we will embark on the project,” said Wanderers general secretary Mike Butao.
Bullets vice-general secretary Kelvin Moyo, whose club has just secured a K500 million five-year sponsorship from Nyasa Manufacturing Company, said: “Plans to own a stadium have been in the pipeline since 2004. However, the execution of that plan will depend on what will be agreed upon between the team and our new partners Nyasa. The stadium is our priority but funding will be a determining factor in that regard.”
The Flames versus Tanzania match was the last competitive international fixture at Kamuzu Stadium.