HARARE – Energy giant Sakunda Holdings has withdrawn its commitment to renovate the iconic Rufaro Stadium to meet international standards citing lack of cooperation from Harare City Council.
Back in February, council accepted a proposal by the energy giant for a long-term lease which would have seen Rufaro Stadium refurbished into a world-class facility but Harare mayor, Jacob Mafume said the energy giant was seeking “a parasitic” deal.
In the proposal, Sakunda Holding expressed its vision to drive community development in Mbare by establishing a Fifa-accredited stadium for use by Dynamos and other local clubs.
The rehabilitation of Belgravia Sports Club and its facilities for use by Dynamos for training purposes was also part of the deal.
But Sakunda have cited lack of cooperation from the City Fathers. It also accused the council of making unfounded allegations that the energy giant wanted to purchase the facility.
“Following our numerous requests to present to your office our final feasibility study report and proposed designs for the refurbishment of Rufaro Stadium, we write to express our gravest misgivings on the unfortunate events and communications emanating from your office,” Sakunda said in a letter signed by chief operations officer Mberikwazvo Chitambo to Harare mayor, Jacob Mafume.
“We are shocked and disturbed by the untruthful and malicious allegations that Sakunda intends to purchase Rufaro Stadium, which is a public asset. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we believe you know that.”
Chitambo said the allegations were unfounded and a coordinated attempt to derail the agreement.
“We wish to place it on record that Sakunda did not have any commercial interest in this project suffice to say that our participation in the same was entirely philanthropic, for the public good. Consequently, we would like to hereby notify you of our immediate withdrawal from this partnership,” Chitambo said.
“Given the toxicity we have now seen in Council’s attitude, and a lack of political will to implement the project on the part of Council, Sakunda hereby withdraws its participation from the project. Notwithstanding all project designs and plans will be donated to Council in the public interest.”
Mafume said he did not understand the stance taken by Sakunda.
“I have no idea what Sakunda is saying. What I understand is that they wanted to get the stadium for 30 years for providing plastic chairs (bucket seats) and when we were in the middle of negotiating that surely a whole stadium cannot go just after someone donates plastic chairs. They then went into a tantrum where they threw away the baby and the bath water,” Mafume said.
“What is clear to us is that businesspeople have for long had a parasitic relationship with the City of Harare. People come to Harare with nothing and Harare makes them millionaires and when Harare needs assistance they say give us land.
“We have not put Rufaro Stadium for sale and, therefore, anyone who wants to assist, who wants naming rights to the stadium must enter into a contract of naming rights that is recognisable like the ones we see everywhere in the world, not where we end up losing the whole stadium simply because we asked someone to provide plastic chairs and to assist us.”
Sakunda Holdings is the major sponsor for two of the country’s biggest clubs — Dynamos and Highlanders.
The two parties entered into an MOU whose framework required them to come up with a project feasibility study which would culminate into a detailed technical agreement for the project.
A project management team made up of Sakunda and City of Harare officials toured South Africa earlier in the year to visit stadiums for research purposes as well as benchmarking of a stadium design.
Rufaro Stadium last hosted league matches during the 2019 season before it was red-flagged by the Zifa First Instance Board in 2020.
The stadium has since become an eyesore after renovations by the city council stalled and its collapse has created problems for the seven Harare-based teams in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League as there is only one approved stadium in the capital, the National Sports Stadium. – News Day