By Raymond Jaravaza and Nhlanhla Mbele
Four years after a local club failed to train under floodlights at Barbourfields Stadium partly because of an unutilised diesel generator at the facility, it has emerged that the stadium still cannot stage football matches at night in the absence of stable electricity supply.
Barbourfields is the only stadium in the country provisionally given the green light by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to play host to international matches.
Rufaro, Mandava and the giant National Sports Stadium failed to impress Caf inspectors and were deemed unsuitable venues for the Warriors.
The only downside to the Caf decision is that the Bulawayo City Council — the owners of Barbourfields — must guarantee that the floodlights at the facility function properly in the event a match is fixtured at night.
With the country facing electricity shortages, the diesel generator at the stadium must be functioning properly for the floodlights to give the much-needed light during evening games.
But there is more to the story than meets the eye.
The generator is just a white elephant sitting near the Soweto End of the stadium and is not connected to the floodlights.
A city council engineer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the company that was contracted to connect the generator a couple of years ago abandoned work over non-payment.
“The generator is part of the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games legacy, which some contractors that did work or offered services back then still have not been paid up to this day.
“The company that was contracted to connect the generator abandoned work because of non-payment so the generator remains unutilised until a decision is taken on the way forward.
“It should also be noted that it is Zesa and not the city council who calculate the amount of electricity used when an event is held at Barbourfields Stadium at night,” said the engineer.
The engineer added that the city council had proposed that the floodlights be replaced with energy saving panels, a project that would gobble “a substantial amount of money”.
B-Metro Sport first broke the story about the unutilised generator back in 2016 when the then local champions Chicken Inn requested to train under floodlights in preparation for a Caf Champions League fixture against Mamelodi Sundowns.
The club was told to pay a deposit of US$4 000 per hour to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), which would translate to US$12 000 for a three-hour training session per day.
When the club opted instead to use the generator to power the floodlights as a cost cutting measure, it was “discovered” that the generator was not connected to the lighting system.
The club abandoned the plans to train under floodlights.
Caf is expected to send a team for a second inspection of Barbourfields and a number of prior recommendations should have been met by the Bulawayo City Council.
Caf inspectors expect the stadium to have clear signage, refrigerators and massage tables in the dressing rooms.
The media area should have tables, power lines and internet.
Most importantly the lawn must be green.
Bulawayo City Council spokesperson Nesisa Mpofu asked B-Metro Sport to e-mail questions when this publication sought to get a comment on the readiness of Barbourfields Stadium ahead of another Caf inspection.
She had not responded to questions at the time of going of going to print. B Metro