Ellina Mhlanga Senior Sports Reporter
IT will be some time before Rufaro Stadium can host any football match as the ground has apparently been abandoned ever since it was closed for renovations about three years ago.
The stadium, which is part of Zimbabwe’s rich football history and served as the home ground of giants Dynamos and other top-flight clubs over the years, is in a state of disrepair.
A visit to the stadium by The Herald crew yesterday showed that the stadium has deteriorated to worse standards than it was when it was closed some time back.
Rufaro was last used for top-flight football matches in 2019. It was red-flagged by the ZIFA First Instance Board in 2020 and has now become an eyesore.
The stadium has been closed several times for renovations, but it seems the commitment from the owners, Harare City Council, is pedestrian.
With the domestic Premiership football set to resume next month, a tour of the venue by The Herald yesterday showed that local football was set for another gloomy season.
Part of the open area outside the stadium is now a place of worship for some apostolic sects, while the car park is occupied by some trucks.
The perimeter wall around the stadium’s car park remains in a sorry state and general maintenance remains an issue as the open space outside has become a dumping site for garbage.
Concerns have been raised over the collapse of Harare City Council-owned facilities over the years.
Despite continued promises and pledges by the council, there hasn’t been much progress in resuscitating the facilities.
Harare City Council’s acting corporate communications manager, Innocent Ruwende, yesterday admitted there were some areas that need to be attended to at Rufaro, including the changing rooms.
Ruwende said they were expecting the renovations at Rufaro to resume after awarding tenders to different companies that will work on the various aspects of the ground that need to be attended to.
“We have managed to put a transformer in place, so electricity is now there, so we start working on the electrical system and all the steel structures, then the floodlights structures.
“We have awarded a tender to Kingson Engineering for cladding, expansion joints, steel works and gutters, Slowgrad for PA system, Sonic Signals for LED electronic score boards, Uvongo projects for LED flood lights, Helensvale Construction for new changing rooms. So we are expecting work to start soon.
“Then we have managed to work on the drainage system surrounding the pitch and we have managed to complete levelling of the pitch.
“So the challenge was that we had not bought the irrigation system. So we are now in the process of buying the irrigation system for watering the ground because we drilled two boreholes,” said Ruwende.
On Gwanzura Stadium in Highfield, Ruwende said efforts were being made to ensure the renovations get underway as well.
“Then for Gwanzura, we are having meetings with the office of the ambassador at large. They will be on the ground next week. They will buy irrigation equipment for Gwanzura, also renovate VIP toilets, media box, at the same time the changing rooms need to be expanded,” said Ruwende.
But the football fraternity should not expect much as the Harare City Council is apparently “overwhelmed” with many other commitments.
Ruwende said stadium renovations had been hampered over time by the need to attend to other competing services.
“Work is still to begin on the changing rooms and the toilets because as council, we have many other issues we have to attend to.
“There are other pressing issues, so we are seeking for partners to come on board and assist us in renovating some of these things. There are many competing issues, so the council is overwhelmed.
“For instance, right now we are attending the drainage system, flooding areas. There is the issue of vending, and we need to put in place vending stalls, so the Council is overwhelmed. We are calling on the corporate sector to come and assist,” said Ruwende.
Early last year, the council’s head of education and social services, Lizzy Muchena, said the local authorities were overwhelmed with health services, mainly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the sprucing up of the stadium was not among their priorities.
“The renovations at Rufaro have been hampered by the financial situation in the Council and it’s not a priority right now because health is the number one priority. We also have refuse collection and roads that need to be done first before we even start to talk about the stadiums,” she said then.