Police stop Rufaro Stadium commissioning; Mnangagwa reportedly eager to cut official opening ribbon 

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By Leopold Munhende | Chief Correspondent

ANTI-Riot police officers were Thursday ordered to stop Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume’s commissioning of Rufaro Stadium, with unconfirmed reports indicating President Emmerson Mnangagwa was planning on doing so himself.

Delegates from Zimbabwe Football Association’s (ZIFA) Normalisation Committee, the Premier Soccer League (PSL), Dynamos, Caps United, Mayors from other towns and Local Government Ministry officials were locked in a three-hour long meeting by a police District Commander (DISPOL) identified as Mafoko in which he gave the order.

Mafoko said they had been ordered to stop any proceedings at the stadium by an office he declined to name despite efforts by Mafume and his colleagues to interrogate him.

“We were stopped in our tracks by DISPOL Mafoko who said they had received some intelligence, which was not shared with us, but necessitated that we do not proceed,” said Mafume.

“As law-abiding citizens we complied with the order.”

By the time their meeting ended, some workers, a few football fans and journalists had been forced out of the ground which is undergoing rehabilitative work.

Mafoko’s conduct comes a day after President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to take charge of stadia rehabilitation in the capital, blaming Harare City Council for the massive disintegration of the capital’s grounds.

“Harare City Council has totally failed, they cannot even collect litter, their water is dirty.

“It is regrettable that soccer matches have been suspended in Harare as a result of the state of stadia. Now Dynamos DeMbare has to play its home games in other towns and cities, I say no. We are going to renovate the stadia so DeMbare can play here. We cannot allow our DeMbare to suffer.”

Dynamos and Caps United are best placed to get the Rufaro Stadium lease from the council according to Mafume’s comments.

A source who spoke to said Mnangagwa wanted to cut the Rufaro Stadium ribbon marking the council ground’s official re-opening himself.

“The issue is political, Mnangagwa wants to cut the ribbon himself, but Mafume insists this is council property, rehabilitated by council funds hence he cannot,” said the source.

The stadium’s commissioning, initially set for Saturday before being shifted to Wednesday and then Thursday would not however have meant a return to football for Zimbabwe’s ceremonial home of the game.

ZIFA’s First Instance Board (FIB), which is in charge of homologating football grounds, is yet to assess it.