GOVERNMENT will conduct an audit of sports facilities in the country in a major effort to arrest the negative trend that has seen most of the infrastructure being run down or turned into other uses divorced from their intended uses, much to the detriment of sport development.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry yesterday said infrastructure development is part of the Government policy thrust under Vision 2030, which aims largely to transform Zimbabwe into a middle income economy country.
However, there are several projects across the country that gobbled millions of dollars when constructed but have now turned into white elephants and are in constant state of dilapidation due to neglect.
The major facilities which have either become an eyesore or due to neglect or have been turned into other uses that are not sport related include the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex, Magamba Hockey Stadium, Mbare netball complex and the Khumalo hockey stadium in Bulawayo, which were all constructed when Zimbabwe hosted the 1995 All-Africa Games are among the sad stories for sport.
Gwanzura has not been able to host Premiership games for the past two seasons because of its dilapidated state, while resident of Waterfalls have launched a bitter fight to save the sports club that used to provide recreational facilities for them, demolished to make way for partitioning of the land into residential stands.
Gweru resident have also received shocking news that the Midlands city’s municipality authorities want to turn the land housing the institution into residential stands too. Then there are also various football stadia and community facilities in areas such as Mhangura, Bindura, Kadoma, that have been rotting because of lack of maintenance countrywide.
A concerned Coventry, yesterday said sport development hinged on the provision of infrastructure and hinted that Government was seized with the matter.
“As a Government that is a priority. What I am asking of my ministry is to put together a database of all our sports facilities across the country.
“So once we know what we have and the state they are in then where can we go from there and see how we can either refurbish or rebuild. “In some communities we need to completely develop sport but I believe that’s a part of the national goal especially for vision 2030.
“It’s not just about being a middle income economy but being fully developed mind, body and soul and sport is a big part of that. It’s going to be a huge drive for not just the ministry but the Government,” said Coventry.
While Coventry is on the right track, her Ministry could pegged back by the fact that they do not have direct control of the public facilities in the country which are owned and controlled by the local councils and the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
It is a worrying reality that a world class swimming facility such as the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex is now more popular for staging musical shows with popular Sungura musician Alec Macheso even having offices at the compelx.
Ironically Coventry rose into an Olympian because of her swimming exploits and the some facility that should have been nurturing more swimmers of her calibre has been turned into bars and venue for musical shows with the swimming pools, a caricature of the venue that staged the All-Africa Games.
It is a similar tale with Magamba Hockey Stadium which is now more synonymous with church gatherings than the sport. For which it was a venue of the Women’s World Championships.
The Aquatic Complex has not been functional since 2002 and it needs in excess of $2.5m for refurbishments. The other existing infrastructure such as football stadia dotted all over the country have been a cause for headaches since they have been deteriorating. Football leaders are currently in dilemma over the new season which was proposed to run from August to May as from next year, overlapping with the rain season in the process.
There are fears the stadiums may not be able to handle the Premiership matches because of poor drainage and their incompatibility with the rain season.
And recently there was disturbing news that Gweru City Council have resolved to close the city’s sports club to allow for town expansion and business investment.
Gweru Sports Club was the only venue capable of hosting big events in the city as it has facilities for more than 10 sporting disciplines including a rugby ground, cricket field and squash courts.
The local authority gave the Gweru Sports and Recreation Club notice of their intention to change the use of the facility and ordering them to vacate the premises by end of January next year. Gweru Sports Club, which celebrates its centenary this weekend, has nurtured several high profile athletes.
There are also other areas in the country that do not have sports facilities and talented athletes are failing to harness their potential. Coventry said Government has plans to provide facilities to all.
“I think with most national federations, the general thing is facilities and then some is access to facilities. You know we have, we do have some very good facilities but not everybody has access so how do we better get access for our athletes especially our national teams, our national players, our junior players and access that’s affordable because that’s have been a lot of the disconnect.
“So those again are all things that we have been taking note of and working on as a ministry. We are finally coming down to those stages of having access and being able to run the National Stadium and sports facilities that were never set under our ministry before.
“So those are all good things, hopefully those will then allow us to allow for athletes to come in and train for free and look at different structures with the federations to put into place but I would that’s probably the most highlighted area from just about all the federations.
“Right now we don’t have a clear database of all of the facilities around the country and in what state they are. So that’s something we have to do first.
“We have to go in and put together a database of what facilities are available, where are they, what condition are they in and then from there we can go in and assess how we are then going to either look at resuscitation, partnerships and so on,” said Coventry.