In October 2019 parliament approved MK1.6 billion meant for the construction of stadia for private football clubs, Wanderers, and Bullets, in an initial intention by the government widely perceived as a campaign tool in the run-up to the next elections.
But now, the facilities are not in full swing and there have been dismal works.
This followed a public promise by then-former President Peter Mutharika.
He had a whistle-stop tour where he said he directed the Sports Ministry and Manpower Development, Malawi National Council of Sports, and Blantyre City Council to allocate two sites for the construction of the two stadiums for the two teams.
Although the matter drew negative views from some sections of society, it bore smiles on the football fanbase, because in the first place, the Kamuzu Stadium which the teams rely on was already getting dilapidated day by day.
For instance, some sections of the society felt the government did not have to go such a way but rather provide either loans or make any other financial arrangement with the teams on the matter.
The decision given the positive end of such projects meant that the two teams would, in this case, challenge government-owned teams Blue Eagles, Civo, Silver Strikers, and Mafco who already have such facilities at their disposal.
The teams went further to find land, for Bullets it was just close to National Bank’s Money Men building and Wanderer’s spaces close to the Blantyre Teachers College.
The spaces were all given the full nod following visits by former ministers Grace Chiumia under the Democratic Progressive Party leadership Ulemu Msungama when the Tonse Alliance came to the mantle of government in 2020.
In May 2020, the local dairies flew a Notification of Intention to Award which disclosed that the Government had awarded contracts to two Chinese Construction companies to carry out the works.
The two construction companies are China Civil Engineering which was meant to oversee Bullets stadium and Anhul Foreign Economic Construction Company to build a stadium for Wanderers.
The notification revealed that the Bullets stadium project will cost K3.8 Billion while Wanderers’ is to the tune of K3.5 Billion.
However, in October of the same year, a probable U-turn came when the government described the projects as not any priority now.
Former minister of finance Felix Mlusu, said the construction of the facilities was not an urgent priority of the new government but emphasized the project had not been entirely abandoned.
This followed the omission of the stadia projects on the list of priorities when Mlusu presented a K2.2 trillion maiden national budget for the Tonse Alliance.
This was raised after a member of Parliament for Nkhotakota North East Martha Lunji Mhone and Nkhatabay Central legislator Symon Vuwa Kaunda queried the minister of Finance for not allocating funds to the project which received financial support in the last budget.
‘’We are intending to prioritize other projects under this regime, although we don’t mean to imply that we have forsaken such projects,’’ he said.
Later, Msungama admitted that the government was reviewing the project saying it had a lot of gray areas.
But two years down the drain, the projects have not been funded since the Tonse administration was ushered into government in 2020 and the latest development on the government’s intentions to review the projects cast doubt on their future.
Minister of Youth and Sports Uchizi Mkandawire says the government cannot tell when construction may resume stating that only funds allow, the works will commence.
He admitted however that the costs are likely to skyrocket to now hover around MK 5 Billion.
The minister made the remarks after marking a day-long inspection of facilities, a fortnight after his appointment replacing Richard Chimwendo Banda.
“As you may appreciate, for the sake of teams in Blantyre, there is an option of demolishing the Kamuzu Stadium to pave the way for construction of the new facility or settling for Njamba, based on what feasibility study and environmental impact assessment will find, ‘’he said.
He insists that government will also be challenging entities to go too commercial and be able to bankroll other projects they may have.
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However, an eminent sports commentator, Peterkins Kaira says the matter has been pure political rhetoric considering the time frame and contradicting remarks by the regimes.
‘’ I would say that the better option would have been doing that as a matter of the lease. It is quite clear that the government may not be so committed to putting up structures for private football clubs,’’ he says.
But, for the Malawi National Council of Sports, there is a need to have modern facilities which according to the chairperson, Dr. Sunduzwayo Madise will go a mile in improving revenue for teams as well as assist the nation in hosting continental or any other international events.
‘’ We will stand a better chance to host more tournaments and that our teams make returns from the facilities. At the moment, we do need to have all resources to have such facilities and we are pleased to hear the government’s commitment to the same,’’ he said.
The facilities, according to Madise will also have electronic ticketing which will end cases of fraud, most of which were reported during last year’s football season which prompted the council to institute an inquiry.
Now, Kaira argues that the onus rests with the teams to go commercial and have their facilities.
‘’I honestly believe that capacity has been there with our teams. You will notice that over the last few years, most have started commercializing and for me that is quite important in efforts to have their infrastructure.
But, in all this time is running out, or are authorities in full belief of the adage: Better late than never?