The much-awaited Kamuzu Stadium renovations will not include rehabilitation of dilapidated stands, Weekend Nation has learnt.
The stands were cordoned off in 2012 after engineers advised that they are a hazard to fans’ safety.
Football authorities have since urged government to be consistent in its statements regarding the stadium renovations considering that all along it had been saying it will renovate the whole stadium and not just part of it.
In 2017/18 National Budget statement, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said government allocated K1.5 billion for the stadium’s renovations and construction of a new one in the city.
Government, according to director of sports in the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Jameson Ndalama, plans to ensure the facility is in ‘usable state’ as there are plans to construct a new facility at a site yet to be announced which might take up to four years.
Immediate past former Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Henry Mussa announced in July that stadium renovations would be completed by September so that the facility can reopen in October.
However, up to now, there is no sign of renovation works at the facility, sparking fears on whether the September deadline is realistic.
But in an interview, Ndalama reiterated that they will stick to the deadline since the work will not include major renovations of the damaged stands.
He said: “The renovations at the stadium will mainly be on the turf, toilets and other structures. We already bought the artificial turf [purchased in Washington DC, USA at $500 000—about K360 million]. Right now we are in the procuring process to identify a contractor for the project,” he said.
On how much will go towards the Kamuzu Stadium renovations, Ndalama said they will have a clear picture after concluding the procurement process.
“As of now, we cannot say exactly how much will go towards the new stadium or Kamuzu Stadium. Such details can only be clear after the procurement process which our planning department is doing right now.
“For example, at this stage, we can’t tell how much the contractor will be paid until the whole process is completed. The same applies to the new stadium project. It is premature to say how much will go towards the first phase of the project right now.”
But the decision to leave out the damaged stands has raised new fears among stakeholders on safety of fans.
Though government barricaded the stadium’s damaged stands, sometimes fans jump over the cordoned off stands.
Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers, who have been heavily affected by the closure of the stadium, have asked government to be consistent in its statements.
Wanderers vice-chairperson Gift Mkandawire said they will comment when the stadium reopens.
“We were first told government wants the stadium reopened within a month. Later, we were told they will remove the artificial turf and put natural glass. Now we are told the stadium will remain with an artificial turf. I think the best way is to wait until all these things are completed. Otherwise, we might be commenting on things that can change any time,” he said.
Bullets general secretary Albert Chigoga said conflicting statements from government will lead to people losing trust.
He said: “We would like to see the stadium re-opening as soon as possible. But our plea to government is that they need to be consistent on this issue. Today we hear one thing, tomorrow another. This will erode people’s confidence in the government on the issue.”
But Ndalama said government is keen to see the stands renovated in future.
He said: “The stadium was not closed because of the stands. The stadium’s closure was mainly because of the artificial turf. Even with those stands closed, it was capable of hosting matches. What we are targeting is that the stadium should be in usable state and that does not necessarily include the renovations of the closed stands.”
On the change of tune to maintain the artificial turf, Ndalama said: “That advice to maintain the artificial turf came from engineers who examined the facility. They discovered that it will cost a lot of money and time to remove the turf, the quarry, sand and concrete around the pitch and plant natural grass. The best option, according to them [engineers], is to just remove the old artificial turf and fit in the new one which will not even take a month.”