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CCC led council scuttles Rufaro Stadium deal

by Staff reporter
18 Nov 2022 at 05:04hrs | Views
A certain comedian once made a metaphoric comparison of having a vision and the height of people.

He said tall people are so tall that they can see tomorrow, while short people are so short that they cannot even see tomorrow.

Well, the joke might appear in bad taste as some may interpret it as taking a dig at short people, yet it is pregnant with meaning.

The comedian was not despising short people, for people's abilities are not defined by height, but was simply urging people to be able to plan for the future by anticipating what progress they want to make within a certain foreseeable period.

The withdrawal of Sakunda Holdings from the deal with Harare City Council this week could make the comedian's joke relevant, as the move proved the city council's inability to envisage the future.

The question that could have boggled many people is: Does the Harare City Council have a vision and plan for the future of the city?

Just like the short person in the comedian's joke, it appears those running Harare City Council cannot see a long-term vision for the city.

If there is anything that has exposed the councillors in Harare as playing jokes with the future of the city, then it is their handling or mishandling of the Sakunda Holdings deal to rehabilitate Rufaro Stadium and the surrounding areas.

The blame lies squarely on the city's mayor Jacob Mafume, who, after returning to the city following a brush with the law, appeared determined to reverse all deals that were clinched by the city in his absence.

And Mafume did not mince his words on this.

On various public occasions, and on his social media handles, he clearly targeted the Sakunda Holdings' Rufaro Stadium deal and the one meant to solve the waste problem at Pomona dumpsite.

Soon after his return, Mafume could hardly spent time without talking about the two deals to anyone who cared to listen, and his conclusion was that these were bad for Harare.

Yet, the two deals were the best to ever happen for Harare since they were going to have a huge positive impact on the development of the capital.

Sakunda Holdings did not just arrive on the scene and took over the Rufaro Stadium project. This was a well-structured deal which had all the input from the Harare City Council.

It was a good example of a Public Private Partnership, which recognises that the private sector can cheap in with funds on infrastructure projects in a deal with the public sector.

But the only problem was that Mafume was not part of those who negotiated the deal and was not part of the delegation from the Harare City Council that was sponsored by Sakunda Holdings on a study tour of South African stadiums.

The tour was meant to have a look at how South Africa renovated its stadiums to international standards for hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The delegation also visited suppliers of materials that were used to renovate the stadiums and build new ones, with the purpose of acquiring the same material for Rufaro Stadium.

The deal was hailed as a game-changer for Harare as it was going to give Mbare a fresh outlook, a development that is aligned to the aspirations of Zimbabwe becoming an upper middle income economy by 2030.

Now, the deal has been scuttled because of what observers believe is Mafume's concern for politics and his political career ahead of the good of the Harare residents.

It had become clear from the start that Mafume viewed the success of the Rufaro Stadium deal as stealing the limelight from the Citizen Coalition for Change-led council, which is already battling with criticism for its glaring failures in many other areas.

This becomes a sorry state of affairs when residents suffer lack of development because a political party is putting its political interests ahead of development.

Residents in Harare who had watched the artistic impression of the project should have been left wondering why Mafume could single handedly scuttled such a huge impact project for the city.

What is apparent in all this unwise action is that Mafume and his councillors do not have a plan for Rufaro Stadium, and if they had, they could not have entered into a deal with Sakunda Holdings for the project.

Harare residents are likely to have an idle Rufaro Stadium for a long time to come because the Harare city councillors have already demonstrated in other service delivery issues that they do not care even if the situation deteriorates.

If the CCC city authorities fail to provide such simple service like collection of garbage, clearing drainage and attending to sewer, how will they suddenly be able to carry out such a huge project like the renovation of Rufaro Stadium and surrounding areas?

There was excitement among the residents at the prospects of having a well-developed Rufaro Stadium and the surrounding areas, but all those hopes have been quashed because of city leader who prefer to play politics at the expense of development.

It all spells doom and gloom for those who had hoped that the Sakunda deal was going to bring back football to its ceremonial home soon.

Under the proposed arrangement, Sakunda Holdings was expected to upgrade the entire stadium, including the playing turf, install bucket seats on the terraces and rehabilitate the outside pitches, including help in the resurfacing of the surrounding road network.

Water supply, sewer reticulation and water drainage systems were going to be attended to as part of the facelift.

A lot more sprucing up was going to be done until the stadium was fit to host international football matches, including Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers.

Apart from the actual stadium, the whole area was going to be given a fresh face, with Sakunda attending to other issues like upgrading roads leading to the stadium and renovating the flats around the stadium.

The stadium was poised to become a world class facility because of the major refurbishment, but now that has been put to hold because of political considerations.

All the numerous meetings and agreements between Sakunda Holdings and Harare City officials on the deal have been put to waste. That Rufaro Stadium has deteriorated to unacceptable levels due to lack of maintenance under the care of Harare City Council is clear to all.

It has not dawned on opposition politicians in Harare City Council that Rufaro Stadium closed its doors in 2019 after it failed to meet the minimum standards, and that such a situation is now untenable.

The stadium has now become an eyesore and a dent on the city's image, and a city council that marvels at such a situation is not worthy to run a big city like Harare.

To those who want to see progress in Harare, the Sakunda Holdings deal was a good initiative that was going to completely change the face of not only Mbare where Rufaro Stadium is situated, but the entire city.

No one, expect the CCC politicians running the Harare City Council, can rejoice at the pulling out of the deal by Sakunda Holdings.

Sakunda Holdings made it clear in a statement why it was withdrawing from the deal.

"Given the toxicity we have now seen in council's attitude, and a lack of political will to implement the project on the part of council, Sakunda hereby withdraws its participation from the project," wrote Sakunda Holdings chief operations Mr Mberikwazvo Mberi to Mr Mafume.

"Notwithstanding, all project designs and plans will be donated to Council in the public interest. Following our numerous unsuccessful requests to present to your office our final feasibility study report and proposed designs for the refurbishment of Rufaro Stadium, we write to express our gravest misgivings on the unfortunate events and communications emanating from your office.

"We are shocked and disturbed by untruthful and malicious allegations that Sakunda intends to purchase Rufaro Stadium, which is a public asset.

"Nothing could be further from the truth, and we believe you know that. These unfounded allegations are grounded on malice and a co-ordinated attempt to curtail our efforts to contribute to the revival and modernisation of public infrastructure."

The CCC-led council had on numerous occasions promised to renovate Rufaro Stadium, but nothing has taken place, indicating how even in the future the officials' promises to act on the stadium are just hot air.

Source - The Herald
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