By Leopold Munhende | Chief Correspondent
RUFARO Stadium’s drainage is not yet complete, so are its dressing rooms, perimeter wall and archaic scoreboard; toilets, turnstiles, parking area, bucket seats, ‘modern roofing’ have all not been attended to.
Although Harare City Council feels it has done a lot to rehabilitate Zimbabwe’s historic site of football, the return of topflight action might have to wait a bit longer than Mayor Jacob Mafume has been promising since work began in February.
In spite of an indefinite ban from international football, none of Zimbabwe’s stadia was allowed to host FIFA-sanctioned matches because of their poor standards. Very little has been done by both government and councils to rehabilitate them to expectations.
Having promised and failed to reopen the stadium before kickoff of this year’s Castle Lager premiership season, Mafume has missed two more deadlines; April’s blockbuster Caps versus Dynamos match and the ‘end of May.’
A recent tour of the stadium revealed work was being done, although at a pace as slow as molasses.
For a stadium that should have been opened before start of the season in March, April then May what has to be done before its reopening needs more time.
Logs still hold what are supposed to be dressing room ceilings, none of Mafume’s small to medium enterprise shops are complete, and his ‘B-Arena’ is yet to take shape.
Bucket seats which Mafume said will be supplied by council’s Rufaro Marketing are yet to be installed. Only 20 samples whose images were shared aeons ago have been installed: nothing more.
However, the new painting on rails at Rufaro Stadium’s Town End, Mbare End and a section of the VIP stand is noticeable. With the exception of its VIP, and Vietnam stand, Mbare and Town Ends have had a few touches.
Fourth time is a charm?
Speaking after the tour, Mafume promised all the work identified just needed three weeks, declaring Dynamos will be back at its home ground at the end of this month.
“We are now beyond certain schedules, the pitch is ready, once the pitch is done, the irrigation system is put up then you can play football on the pitch. We will run a roller on it so that it becomes firm and even,” said Mafume.
“The changing rooms have been expanded and what is left is the concrete deck which will take two to three weeks to dry and then football will start being played. The bathrooms and plumbing have already been bought. We have removed the squat holes and will put cisterns.
“We are closer, I can bet by the end of this month we will be playing football in this stadium. There are no contradictions in saying more needs to be done but football will be played.”
Before its closure in 2019, Rufaro Stadium had been heavily neglected. Sewer streams were the order of the day, dirt and garbage reigned supreme up till council was forced into taking action.
Hope for its immediate rehabilitation was dashed when a multi-million-dollar deal between council and controversial Sakunda Holdings proprietor Kudakwashe Tagwirei fell through.
People like sleeping – says Mafume as he places blame on workers, Zimbabweans, suppliers
Asked why council missed its two deadlines, Mafume said workers were resisting a 24-hour shift he had introduced, in favour of sleeping. The same was said of suppliers who he said chose to close shop over weekends or sleep overnight instead of ensuring a quickened finish to the job.
Added Mafume: “The problem has been changing the work culture. I would rather people work 24 hours, people in Zimbabwe like to sleep a lot.
“We cannot have a situation where only beer drinkers and all-night prayers are awake at night.
“I am changing the culture, we were working here 24 hours every day, there were a bit of complaints from the workers so I suspended it but we are coming back to it.
“Work ethic issues have delayed my timetable, if people had maintained the 24/7 working regime…this not only affects council, even our suppliers, you give them an order and they go to sleep; everyone operates like a colonial administrator who likes drinking tea and taking siestas.”
The stadium, according to Mafume will be used before completion of some parts that might not affect the game.
Rehabilitation of Dzivarasekwa, Gwanzura Stadia on cards
Harare City Council will move to rehabilitate long forgotten Dzivarasekwa Stadium which hosted 2008 league champions Monomotapa and Gwanzura Stadium that was last used in 2015, after its efforts at Rufaro Stadium.
This, according to Mafume will ensure the creation of a viable sport industry where council will get revenue to continuously maintain its facilities.
Gwanzura Stadium, which is almost as popular as Rufaro and its Bulawayo counterpart Barbourfields in local football folklore was once one of Zimbabwe’s main stadia.
Added Mafume: “The money that is coming from our bars and breweries is going to go to the refurbishment of stadia.
“We will not use ratepayers money to build these amenities. We will use beer levies and rentals from our bars to make sporting and medical facilities world-class.
“We are going to move to Gwanzura and Dzivarasekwa stadium, they are both going to be playable with a turf that is up to standard. I had a meeting with ZIFA Northern Region.
“Once we move from here it is now none stop.”
Having hosted big names such as Maronga ‘The Bomber’ Nyangela, Moses Chunga and Oliver Kateya, Gwanzura has become as rundown as many others not just in Harare but as far as the Midlands; Rudhaka (Marondera), Trojan and Chipadze (Bindura), Rimuka (Kadoma) and famous Baghdad Stadium in Kwekwe.
With a weed-infested playing field and rundown terraces, Dzivarasekwa is now a venue for the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions’ (ZCTU) annual Workers’ Day commemorations and once in a while political rallies.