The Chronicle

Tadious Manyepo, Harare Bureau

THE Ministry of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation will deploy full-time experts to maintain the National Sports Stadium after Government yesterday agreed to transfer the facility to that ministry.

The stadium had been under the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.

The venue hasn’t had a facelift in more than 10 years due to lack of funding, resulting in it being banned from hosting international matches by Caf.

The ban was extended to all Zimbabwe’s stadiums forcing Zifa to move the Warriors’ home Afcon qualifier against Algeria on March 29 to Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This follows Caf’s refusal to have a re-look at its decision even after Zifa secured assurance from the Government, which injected $37.7 million for refurbishment of the National Sports Stadium, Barbourfields and Sakubva.

After pensive deliberations, the Government agreed to transfer control of the National Sports Stadium to the Sport Ministry.

Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry announced the transfer on her official Twitter handle.

“Zifa have failed to assure Caf that work we are doing in the stadiums will safeguard our national teams playing home games in Zimbabwe. Zifa now have to come up with a stadium outside of Zimbabwe…

“It has finally been agreed that the ownership and operations of the National Sports Stadium in Zimbabwe will now be transferred to the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation. We have the experience and passion to now use this opportunity for Zimbabwe to become a sporting powerhouse,” Minister Coventry tweeted.

Artisans are busy on the ground giving the National Sports Stadium the Caf-recommended facelift.

But it is the calibre of the workforce deployed at the National Sports Stadium that has drawn concerns from stakeholders as they do not have the requisite skills to keep the facility in the right shape.

Giving oral evidence before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation last week, the acting permanent secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works Joseph Mhakayakora said there was need for Treasury to avail funds for the upkeep of the stadium.

He said his Ministry had not received any funding for the maintenance of the giant venue for the past decade.

“The venue has deteriorated to an extent it now needs $234 million to be upgraded to meet Caf minimum requirements. About US$9.6 million is needed to just install bucket seats in the entire stadium,” said Mhakayakora.

Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation Tino Machakaire said the Ministry will ensure everything is done to the book.

“With the experience that my boss (Coventry) has and the general work ethic, the determination and affinity in the Ministry, we are very confident we will change the face of the stadium,” said Machakaire.

“What we need is to make sure that we have the right expertise for the right positions at the stadium. We are past that stage of having mere groundsmen to manicure the lawn. We need experts to do all that. We will make sure we have the right personnel in each position and of course some general hands to complement their efforts.”

A full-time workforce will be based at the stadium to ensure the venue is ready to host either athletics or football events at any given time.