Police defend blocking of Rufaro stadium commissioning by opposition mayor

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HARARE – The Zimbabwe Republic Police has inadvertently confirmed opposition claims of a relentless government interference into the running local authorities in an awkward defence of their controversial action to block Harare mayor Jacob Mafume from commissioning Rufaro Stadium on Thursday.

Mafume, an opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) politician, was set to preside over the re-commission the iconic stadium, which has been under renovation for some months.

But the event could not proceed as planned after a group of police officers stormed the stadium to stop the scheduled ceremony with both journalists and council officials driven out of the giant facility like a head of cattle.

In a statement later during the day, police defended their action saying the city mayor had no authority to hold the event.

“With regards to media queries on the status of Rufaro Stadium in Harare and the issue of maintenance of law and order, the ZRP reiterates that it stands guided by the Permanent Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Harare Province as he is the one in charge of Government and local authorities programmes in the city,” police said via their official Twitter handle.

The permanent secretary for provincial affairs in Harare in Tafadzwa Muguti, a Zanu PF official.

The ruling Zanu PF has peddled the claim that the rot that has become of local authorities was an act of mismanagement by the opposition.

Recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa decreed a “state of disaster” in Harare citing the capital city’s failure to efficiently manage waste collection.

The action was seen by observers as an election gimmick intended to spotlight on alleged opposition failures by the Zimbabwe incumbent.

The claim by police that the provincial affairs secretaries have a handle in the running of local authorities vindicates opposition claims that its officials deployed to council chambers were being impeded by central government to deliver smooth service to rate payers.

On Wednesday, Mnangagwa told a Zanu PF campaign rally that his government would renovate the stadium so that Dynamos Football Club could use it again for its home matches.

Rufaro is close to the hearts of many Zimbabweans as it has been home to some of the country’s most epic football duels and is the stadium in which the Union Jack – the national flag of the United Kingdom – was lowered on the eve of independence in April 1980 to mark the end of a century of British colonial rule in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, in later interviews with the media, Mafume denied his bid to officially open the stadium following renovations was an election gimmick.

“We are not using it as a political card to campaign; we are using it as a stadium for the children. People who play soccer have a limited period to play.

“This is what we promised the residents,” he said.

Mafume added, “We are doing this for the sporting public and it is a job we told people we were going to do and we have done it.” – ZimLive