Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE Herald today launches the Fix Our Grounds (FOG) campaign in an effort to force authorities to refurbish the country’s football grounds which have been condemned by the Confederation of African Football.
The campaign highlights the poor state of major football grounds, which have been neglected by those tasked with maintaining them, and we hope by highlighting this, the authorities will be forced to act.
Yesterday, an article in our sister newspaper, H-Metro, which highlighted the way Gwanzura has turned into an eyesore forced authorities at Harare City Council to scramble some workers to go and remove some of the weeds which have invaded the sitting bays.
Last December, The Herald toured Gwanzura, Rufaro and Dzivaresekwa and highlighted the embarrassing poor state of the three facilities.
The report made it clear that Gwanzura now appears like a ghost facility, a stadium left behind by time and the changing seasons, a facility which the authorities left to crumble into something that now looks like a haunted ground, where even vampires won’t dare to play their ball games in the dead of the night.
The Herald team noted that the stadium had been reduced into a shell by those tasked with preserving its beauty, and all the memories that Gwanzura carries, including its legacy as the oldest football stadium built in this country.
Gwanzura has not hosted a Premiership match for five years now since the Premier Soccer League, concerned the raw sewage from its old pipes, which kept spilling onto the pitch, would endanger the health of players and match officials, barred it from staging their games.
Players and officials had also complained raw sewage also spilled into the old dressing rooms while there were serious concerns over the security of referees.
Since then, various groups of Harare City Council officials have toured Gwanzura, taken the media on a tour of deception and shame, promised they would fix the stadium, came up with budgets for the refurbishments, and even a time-line of when they would reopen the ground.
Today, we also reveal how the country has been sold a dummy by council officials, who painted an image that they were about to renovate the stadiums only for them to do nothing in the last few years.
March 22, 2017
The then Harare City’s acting town clerk Josephine Ncube said council was working on renovating Rufaro and they were expecting to start erecting bucket seats and introducing Wi-Fi at the stadium.
Ncube, who was the acting town clerk, said that when she toured Rufaro in the company of the contractor — Highmel Investments — assuring the local football family that by the second week of April, the ground would be ready.
“In terms of Wi-Fi we have an arrangement with a local provider and you will see that Wi-Fi will be available at Rufaro and also at Gwanzura this coming season,’’ Ncube told The Herald.
“In terms of the bucket seats, they are already on our budget for council and we will start putting bucket seats this year and we are also going to put up an electronic scoreboard at Rufaro.’’
She said they were also looking at renovating Gwanzura.
Three years later there is no Wi-Fi at Rufaro, only a few bucket seats were erected in the VVIP Enclosure and there is no electronic scoreboard at the stadium.
The state of the pitch, and other facilities at the stadium, are worse off than was the case in March 2017.
Harare City Council officials revealed they had set aside $150 000 to renovate Gwanzura with councillors resolving to invoke the powers vested in then Mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, to find the funds for the exercise.
“Following discussions, the committee noted the urgency of the matter and resolved that subject to the approval of His Worship, the Mayor, council approves the refurbishment of Gwanzura Stadium to meet ZIFA and PSL standards at an estimated cost of $150 000 for use during the 2017 PSL season.’’
The refurbishments, according to council, would target enlarging the changing rooms, refurbish public toilets, referees changing room and terraces. Council also wants to construct a medical room, ticket room, repair the security wall, and upgrade turnstiles and media area. It would also replace the playing turf with kikuyu lawn and attend to the sewer backflow challenges.
More than three years later, nothing has happened and Manyenyeni has since been replaced by another mayor while there are also some new faces among the councillors.
October 4 2018
The Harare City Council said they had committed over $700 000 for the refurbishment of Gwanzura ahead of the 2019-2020 Premiership season.
“The Harare City Council will in the coming weeks start the full-scale refurbishment of one of our sporting facilities, Gwanzura Stadium in Highfield,’’ Council spokesperson, Michael Chideme said.
“The council has set aside $700 000 for the work. The first aspect is to address the issue of water supply to which the city council has already made payment for borehole drilling.
“The contractor engaged for the turf attendance will be on the ground as soon as the installation of the borehole is completed. The contractor for the turf will also address drainage issues.’’
The pre-cast security wall, as well as changing rooms, said Chideme, would be attended to while bucket seats would also be put across the stadium, making Gwanzura the first facility to have those, in its entirety, in the country.
About 14 months later, nothing has changed at Gwanzura and no one knows what happened to the $700 000 which was said to have been earmarked for the refurbishment.
April 3, 2019
Harare City Council officials indicated they now had the financial resources to start refurbishing Gwanzura.
Chideme said lack of funds had delayed the project in the past.
“We had plans of refurbishing Gwanzura but did not have enough funds. We were delayed because the consumers of our services were not paying up hence it delayed our progress.
“As we speak, work is in progress and we have budgeted $100 000 for the refurbishment of Gwanzura Stadium,” said Chideme.
Ten months later, nothing has been done and no one knows what happened to the $100 000 which council said was earmarked for the renovations.