By Tadious Manyepo
Government has identified a local supplier of bucket seats to be installed at the National Sports Stadium but has raised concern over the stealing of equipment meant for the renovation of the country’s biggest sports facility.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Deputy Minister, Tino Machakaire, yesterday raised alarm over rampant looting of items meant to provide a facelift to the stadium.
The National Sports Stadium is the only venue in the country allowed by CAF to host international matches, albeit temporarily, and the Government has been addressing the issues raised by the continent’s governing football body.
All the other stadiums in the country are banned from hosting international games as they do not meet the minimum expected requirements.
But, after massive efforts by the Government to sort out virtually all but one of the issues raised by the Grounds Committee at the National Sports Stadium, CAF have okayed the country to use the facility on an interim basis.
The Government has erected a state-of-the-art media tribunal, medical centre, dressing rooms, among other things, but are yet to install bucket seats across the entire arena.
But, since no spectators are allowed into the stadium in this Covid-19 era, CAF have allowed Zimbabwe to host international games at the National Sports Stadium.
However the continental football mother body expect to see bucket seats at the facility as soon as possible.
The Warriors host Zambia in their last 2021 AFCON qualifier and Machakaire said the Government would have made huge strides by that time.
FC Platinum will host Senegal giants Jaraaf on Sunday in the CAF Confederation Cup play-off first leg tie at the same stadium.
But, amid the pressure to beat the March deadline for the installation of the bucket seats, Machakaire yesterday toured the stadium and raised the red flag over the quantity of missing items.
And, he said heads must roll within the rank and file of the responsible authorities.
“I am happy with the efforts being put into the renovation of the National Sports Stadium but I am totally disappointed with the extent of looting at the same facility,” said Machakaire.
“We have had a situation whereby items just disappear and it is attributed to ‘thieves’ who are surprisingly not brought to book.
“This has prompted some of us to smell a rat and we are calling on authorities to get to the bottom of this matter.
“Surely, we cannot have a situation whereby an item as big as a refrigerator, just for example, goes missing from the storeroom at a facility like the National Sports Stadium.
“It’s not business as usual when we have people on the ground, including a security company, who man the venue and we lose. such unbelievable quantities.
“Look, the Government makes strenuous efforts to put resources on the ground, for the good of the country, and the citizenry.
“We cannot be forced to host football matches outside our own borders for reasons such as failure of our own stadia to meet the CAF prescription.
“As Government, we make every effort to address that and then someone thinks they are smart enough to loot.
“We are supposed to be talking about the bucket seats, and bucket seats alone, but I am shocked that there are several missing stocks here.
“We will get to the bottom of this scandal and surely justice will prevail.”
Some of the items, which are missing, according to Machakaire, include refrigerators and LED television sets, which cost thousands of United States dollars.
He said some people have been taking advantage of the prevailing difficult situation, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, to loot equipment meant for the upgrading of the giant facility.
The National Sports Stadium will be fully transferred to the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, from the Public Works Ministry, once things return to normal, according to Machakaire.
He said Government have now identified a local supplier of the bucket seats, after assessing a number of options, over the last months.
All things being equal, he is upbeat the bucket seats will be installed by the time the Warriors play Zambia at home next month.
“We went for a tender process and we now have a local supplier who is already working on producing more seats after the samples were approved.
“Barring any obstacles, we would be able to start installing them soon.
“We are hoping that by the time the Warriors host Zambia, at the end of next month, the entire facility will be having the seats.”
Machakaire said in the event there are some delays, the authorities will always seek a CAF reprieve, since no spectators are allowed at the local games at the moment. The Herald