Since our Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha, announced that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has set aside K1.26 billion to build stadiums for two teams from the Southern Region, the DPPs powerhouse, a lot of people have offered their comments. We, the Bottom Up expedition do not know whether there are more ayes than nays or vice versa. All we know is that the debate is heated. And it is getting hotter and hotala.
Listening to MIJ FM’s Democracy Forum early this week, one would be fooled to think that most people do not want the stadiums built. They agree with Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson, Timothy Mtambo’s observation that Mighty BeForward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets are, after all, clubs owned by private companies and financially benefitting the Japanese kaunjika vehicle sellers and the Chinese cigarette makers.
Some have argued that building stadiums for privately owned football clubs will open a pandora’s box because Chitipa United will ask for its own stadium from the public purse. So will Karonga United, Ekwendeni Hammers, Rumphi Barcelona, Nkhata Bay United, Mangochi Swallows, Salima Warriors, Wimbe United, Nchalo Nzimbe Collectors, Neno Dribblers, Thekerani Stars, Nkhota Kota Crocodiles, and Zomba Lions. If the government does not want to show that it is biased against other private local football teams, it will have to build stadiums for all these teams. Will it afford them?
Others have argued that government should have spent the K1.6 billion on rebuilding the Kamuzu Stadium, Malawi’s once-upon-a-time soccer Mecca. The Kamuzu Stadium, hitherto known as Rangeley Stadium, is a national treasure as it tells Malawi’s football and other sports history and politics.
It was here that the maiden Malawi Flames was thrashed by Ghana. It was here that Kamuzu Banda became prime minister in 1963, then, one year later president, of the new Malawi nation. Since then all presidents have been sworn in at the Kamuzu Stadium. It was also here that Malawi’s oneness, culture and tradition, were celebrated for some 40 years after our independence from the state terrorists that killed Rev John Chilembwe, massacred our ancestors in 1953 and 1959 and took away their bodies.
However, the vocal supporters of the beneficiary teams, are, understandably, up in arms and have promised to hold vigils at the offices of the HRDC until Timothy Mtambo withdraws his opposition to the stadium building plans. They gave him 72 hours to do so. Their reasoning is clear, the government sponsors several teams and has built facilities for teams like Civo and Silver Strikers. Why not Bullets and Wanderers?
What both belligerents should now know is that the stadium construction budget is in the hands of our members of Parliament (MPs). Instead of fighting in the media, in the streets, in hospitals, in beer halls, in minibuses, in the siyentas, in the makapolo coaches, in the train, at funeral ceremonies, at wedding parties, at political rallies or elsewhere, the pro-stadium building block and their nemesis should engage and use evidence to convince the MPs meeting for the budget meeting in Lilongwe. These men and women hold the key. Not Timothy Mtambo, not Wanderers or Bullets fans. Not even President Mutharika. Lobby the MPs. Waste not that precious ingredient called time.
In post scriptum, we, neutral observers, would like to remind our government to learn from the way we handle our investors. Issues of social responsibility should be regulated by law. In Rwanda, social accountability is requirement for any investor in that land of a thousand hills.
In Zambia, President Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP government made it an obligation that all teams investing in copper exploration should, first, build sports facilities for the teams they would start or adopt. This explains why almost every football club in Zambia has its own sports facilities. Bullets and Wanderers have been abused for over 50 years, marketing products in exchange for a pittance.
When Bullets were called Bata Bullets, they should have had a stadium built by Bata Shoe Company, a shoe marketing monopoly then. When Wanderers were called Berec Power Pack, they should have had a stadium built by Berec Battery Company. The stadiums should have been built almost 50 years ago.
It is our prayer that should the MPs reject the stadium construction budget, BeForward Limited should build a stadium for the team that is marketing their kaunjika vehicles. Nyasa Manufacturing Company should build a stadium for the people’s team that is marketing their ndudu.
Timothy Mtambo and the HRDC and the supporters of both Bullets and Wanderers supports should now start working together to force these companies to build the stadiums. Or at a minimum, contribute 50 percent towards the cost of building the stadia (as stadiums are called in Latinised English). We no longer want to hear this insult: “Dziko ndi wanu; ndalama wathu.”