Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter

THE City of Harare appear to have, once again, sold the nation a dummy, with Gwanzura and Rufaro still in a state of disrepair while there is marked improvement at the National Sports Stadium.

While artisans are working around the clock to address the structural flaws at the country’s biggest sports stadium, nothing seems to be happening at Gwanzura and Rufaro, where the preliminary work appear to have been suspended.

The shortcomings at the City of Harare, where millions of dollars have been injected into renovations without the end product to justify such expenditure, have apparently been exposed by the success of a community-driven project in the small town of Shamva.

The residents of Shamva came together, in January this year, in partnering the leadership of their local Division One side, Simba Bhora, to renovate their Wadzanai Stadium.

The bare and uneven pitch, which the club used during their successful Division Two campaign last year, has been replaced by a lush green and flat playing surface, with all the work being carried out in the last five months.

A WORLD APART . . . The poor work carried out Gwanzura (top), in images captured by our photographer Kudakwashe Hunda yesterday, is put into context by the way the Shamva community have, in just five months, transformed the state of the playing surface of their Wadzanai Stadium (bottom pictures)

The next phase of the renovations at Wadzanai, which are being bankrolled by the Division One club’s leaders with the community providing the labour, on a voluntary basis, will focus on the erection of stands in the next few weeks.

Yesterday, Government and football stakeholders hailed the club’s officials and the Shamva residents, for providing the country with a model of how a community can come together and work towards transforming their sports structures.

“Look at the work the team (Simba Bhora) is doing in an area like Shamva. That’s fantastic,” the Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Tino Machakaire, said yesterday.

“As the parent ministry, we are more than delighted to see teams making efforts to complement the work being done by the Government, as well as ZIFA.

“We have always been encouraging individual teams to be professional. Now, that’s the definition of professionalism.

“It is so sad to see football matches, Division One games for that matter, being played on dusty, bumpy surfaces, like we always see.

“We are making efforts, as well, but it is so encouraging to see individual clubs doing such tremendous work to improve conditions of play.

“Shamva, being a rural community, is in a way being modernised. This is our policy, as Government, we would like to see more clubs taking a leaf and implementing such policies. We are more than delighted.

“We wish to see this happening across the country, from school level to the professional level.”

ZIFA Northern Region Division One board member, Sweeny Mushonga, also hailed the initiative by Simba Bhora and the Shamva community.

“Football infrastructure, in the country, is not up to the required standards. We are striving every year to ensure that matches are played in decent facilities,’’ said Mushonga.

“And, to see some clubs making that initiative, is a good thing.

“Our league (Northern Region Division One) is one of the most professionally-run in the country. So, to see part of your constituency doing such wonders to promote our league, is quite encouraging.

“We would like to urge all other clubs to strive to walk the professional lane.”

While the grass is looking green at Wadzanai Stadium, nothing appears to be happening at two of the capital’s major stadiums, either because of negligence or just poor prioritisation of projects by the City of Harare.

The City of Harare-owned stadiums are virtually in the same poor state they were in when they were condemned by the ZIFA First Instance Body in March.

While the Government, through the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, have made huge strides in addressing the flaws at the giant stadium, there is nothing being done by the Harare City Council at Gwanzura and Rufaro.

Before the coronavirus-induced lockdown was proclaimed in March, the City of Harare looked determined to upgrade Rufaro and Gwanzura.

Housing director, Addmore Nhekairo, appeared to be employing a hands-on approach as artisans fixed both drainage and sewer infrastructure at Gwanzura.

But, save for the grading of the playing turf and cleaning of the changing rooms, nothing seems to have been done at the stadium.

Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme yesterday said renovations were ongoing at both facilities with skeletal staff.

“The renovations at both facilities are ongoing, but there is minimal workforce on the ground due to the coronavirus epidemic,’’ he said.

“Remember, some of the material which is needed for the renovations is found from companies that are not operating at the moment.’’

Part of the perimeter wall at Gwanzura has since collapsed while the sitting bays are in horrible shape. Some weeds, which were removed in March, have since grown on the terraces and the rusty perimeter fence, separating the bays and the pitch, has also collapsed.

At Rufaro, the municipality has deployed municipal police details to man the gates and prevent members of the media from entering the facility.

Weeds have again invaded its turf.

The ablution facilities and changing rooms haven’t yet been upgraded while medical rooms and media tribunals aren’t in place yet.

Vendors, selling horticultural products, are back in the stadium’s car park.

But, refreshingly, there is some marked progress in the work being carried out at the National Sports Stadium.

A media tribunal, disability centre, mixed zone areas as well as medical rooms have been put in place at the giant stadium while the playing surface has also been levelled and the pitch looks in great shape.

Only the turnstiles and the ablution facilities are yet to be fully dealt with while bucket seats are set to be installed after next month.

While workers could be seen at the giant stadium, there were no workers at either Rufaro or Gwanzura.