THIS week, the mayor of our nation’s capital city, and the chairperson of the top-flight football competition, the Premier Soccer League (PSL), made a tour of Rufaro Stadium to assess ongoing renovation at the 1972-established sports facility.
Interestingly, both men are politicians from different sides of the Zimbabwe’s foremost political divide.
Harare mayor Jacob Mafume is a senior member of a party that preaches excellence, an organisation that to millions of citizens is the symbol of long-desired change, an alternative to decades of the ruinous governance of the ruling party.
The league’s boss is Farai Jere, the magnate co-owner of one of the country’s biggest football clubs. He has recently entered the political field, to stand for public office as MP in his rural area of Murehwa, on the ruling party’s ticket.
After their tour of municipal-owned Rufaro, Harare’s number one resident, background of dull brown rows of sitting areas and all, addressed accompanying reporters.
The mayor animatedly lauded what he called “significant progress with the stadium.” Looking around for yourself, you wouldn’t be persuaded to agree, if you have any sense of standards.
Among those you expect to be dissatisfied with the progress should be the mayor himself, surely – and his party colleagues – who because of said adherence to excellence, ought to have an idea of what modern-day infrastructure looks like.
Just across the border in Zambia, they not so long ago constructed a completely new stadium, Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, in under two years between 2010 and 2012.
A state-of-the-art arena as good as any you’ll find in Africa, complete with all the Fifa-required facilities of a football stadium in the 21st century, right from the ground up, in just two years.
In the capital city Lusaka, another entirely new stadium, National Heroes Stadium, opened in 2014 after work had started from scratch only three years earlier.
How so terribly sad that in our case, what should be routine refurbishment of an already existing structure, a 51-year-old stadium for goodness’ sake, should be handled as if it’s the biggest construction project carried out in Zimbabwe’s history.
While a neighbour has seen two brand new stadiums rise from the rubble, we have been warned that our beloved Rufaro – a vintage five-decade-old structure – could well reopen before full refurbishment is complete.
“We will open the stadium anyway before bucket seats get here,” cautioned Mafume in case you expect too much and end up more appalled than you already are.
Samples of the bucket seats, he explained, were locked up somewhere in Ethiopia, to arrive in Harare sometime in the week. Only samples, bear that in mind. Ordering of the actual seats themselves, and finally installing them, will be another process altogether.
Meanwhile, the mayor is clearly excited about applying new soil to the turf, and the setting up of a “pop-up irrigation” system, which he says has contributed to the stadium’s “lush green” only seen by a handful others.
A call to the groundsmen at some of the schools around the city would give our authorities a demystifying free lesson on basics that the “city fathers” and a whole premier league administration are practically holding strange rituals over.
Wait until we are told how much that kind of workmanship has cost. If you think you might manage to remain sane after hearing it, do not hold your breath. I am not.