Understanding the Rufaro Stadium situation; Harare City Council, ZIFA, government speak

This is Rufaro Stadium in a picture taken by photojournalist Wilson Kakurira
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RUFARO Stadium’s commissioning was stopped Thursday morning dashing hopes of millions who expected the occasion to mark a return of topflight football to capital Harare.

By Bhora Afrika

The stadium is now clocking four years without use at topflight level due to massive disintegration and a clear lack of concern from various parties either in charge, responsible or directly involved in its upkeep.

In announcing its closure local football administrator, ZIFA’s First Instance Board (FIB) noted that the stadium had uneven turf, poor drainage and ablution facilities.

Its dressing rooms were also highlighted as a cause for concern. Built in 1963 and rehabilitated a number of times during the colonial era, Rufaro Stadium’s facilities were either regarded as archaic or too small.

What has been done so far?

After a deal to lease the ground to businessman Kudakwashe Tagwireyi for giants Dynamos’ use fell through, council resolved to use its own resources in rehabilitating it last year.

Funds were to be derived from its City Parking and Rufaro Breweries entities.

As it stands reconstruction is lagging behind time with council having missed a series of deadlines.

However progress has been noted.

The pitch is now lush, ‘a footballer’s dream’ according to Mafume, the away dressing room is almost at completion, the dusty car park behind its VIP Stand has been replaced by a modern one.

The drainage which FIB had raised as a concern has been resolved. Council has gone as far as providing stand alone access to water for the ground and added it onto Zimbabwe’s national power grid after years of darkness.

An electronic turnstile has also been installed.

Rufaro Stadium’s Away Team Dressing Room has been given the thumbs up by ZIFA’s Normalisation Committee Chairperson Lincoln Mutasa, Dynamos and Caps United executives. The Home Team Dressing Room is expected to have been completed by Saturday.

What is still outstanding?

The Home Team Dressing Room is not yet done, lighting at the stadium seems not to meet standards, ablution facilities are not yet refurbished despite promises to replace current squat holes with modern seats and the Media Box is still an eyesore.

Its old scoreboard is still intact, a stark reminder of the stadium’s gloomy maladministration.

Bucket seats are yet to be installed. Only ten sample seats can be seen among the old ones at Rufaro Stadium’s VIP Stand. Mafume told journalists council will install 34,000 over the course of the stadium’s use once it is re-opened.

The roof at Rufaro Stadium is expected to stay despite concerns it could fall off.

So what is the problem?

According to Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC) Tafadzwa Muguti, Mafume has been going it alone without their involvement.

In an audio shared with Bhora Afrika, Muguti makes it clear the ground will not be opened without their involvement. These sentiments come a day after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced his administration will be taking charge of stadia refurbishment.

“Building a stadium is not a one man job. Consulting with the PSL and ZIFA is not enough, it has to be certified by the ministry,” said Muguti.

“The City of Harare made a fundamentals mistake in that they have been working by themselves, they have not been checking for standards from other stakeholders, up until now there is no other government arm that has been involved in the renovation of Rufaro Stadium except the Mayor and the Town Clerk.”

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Mafume on the other hand believes government has no authority over council property, arguing they had been quiet as Rufaro Stadium disintegrated.

Speaking after his event was stopped dismissed that its refurbishment was being rushed for a political agenda.

“Our works are what I would describe in our own optimistic view 95 percent complete. We have the best pitch in the country as we speak right now. Our grass is green, it is lush turf, a soccer’s dreamer. We have done a state of the art parking lot. We have done a state of the art boardroom.

“I am not using it as a political card to campaign, we are building this stadium for our children. People who play football have a short career.

“Our counterpart have opened an airport, a gate was opened at Josiah Magamba Tongogara Barracks. Are they doing it for elections, no, they are doing it for the public and we are doing it for the sporting public.

“We are doing the job we told people we will do, and we have done it,” Mafume said.

ZIFA is happy, Mutasa had glowing reviews of the ground.

“They have made tremendous progress and are very pleased with the developments taking place. It brings back nostalgic memories but I was pleasantly surprised that the dressing rooms are much bigger and have the showers that FIFA and CAF stipulated,” said Mutasa.

When will it open? When will Dynamos make a return to Rufaro Stadium?

Dynamos who have traditionally used the ceremonial stadium as a home and cross town rivals Caps United are both using stadia out of the capital.

Hope to continue using the National Sports Stadium (NSS) were dashed after the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) shut it following weeks of overuse.

When Rufaro Stadium will officially host topflight football is now for the gods to know and us to speculate.

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