Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
MINISTER of Finance and Economic Development, Mthuli Ncube, has pledged support for the various initiatives being undertaken by the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.
He said this during a tour of Mufakose Youth Interact Centre together with his Cabinet colleague, Kirsty Coventry, where the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Ministry has revamped and constructed some facilities.
These include a multi-purpose court, basketball court and a netball court.
The Government availed a $20 million Covid-19 relief package to assist athletes, and artistes, with each of the two sectors getting $10 million.
Some of the athletes have already received the funding to help them navigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Sport have also been looking at resuscitating Community Centres and, this year, they are targeting 40 such Centres across the country.
Ncube was also briefed on the criteria for applications by athletes.
“I am very impressed with the development, and the state of arts facilities that I saw today, and all the other facilities that I have been shown,’’ he said.
“After witnessing such marvellous work may I take this opportunity to assure the Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Honourable Dr Kirsty Coventry, that I am going to support, give more support for this concept to reach community centres, which are benefiting our youth.
“I know that there are various programmes that the Ministry is running and, as Treasury, we stand committed in supporting the youth.”
The Finance Minister said he is aware more resources are needed and it’s an area they were going to look into, including other options such as tapping into the devolution funds, for such projects.
“My Ministry is going to prioritise a proposal on establishing state-of-the art Youth Interactive Centres like this one throughout the administrative districts in Zimbabwe.
“In this regard, I would channel more resources to support this noble cause as youth, athletes and artists constitute the largest demographic population,” Ncube said.
There was also a question and answer session with artists and athletes.
For the athletes, among the issues raised were that of access to facilities, and ensuring the Centres were spread throughout the country. In some instances, sport has had to compete for facilities with churches and other non-sporting events while some of the recreational spaces have been turned into residential stands.
They also highlighted the need for the Ministry to assist in the importation of sports equipment.
Audrey Svongwa, a weightlifter, said they appreciated the initiative by the Ministry but they would also need it to include indoor facilities for such sport as weightlifting.
Coventry said they were looking at a phased-approach but, for this year, they were targeting 40 Centres.
“This year we had targeted to try and have 40 (centres) resurrected and back to the shape they were, or better, for the 40th anniversary of the country,’’ she said.
“Obviously, with Covid-19, it might be a little bit slower for this year but that’s still the goal.
“In terms of equipment for sport, we have the same challenge in art, what we need to do, and I was just explaining to the Minister a little bit more, the struggle is, there is a legislation there that sport equipment, and equipment for artists, should come in duty-free.
“But, the challenge is that, that list has not been updated, so when we talk about sport equipment we are not just talking about the soccer balls, or the basketballs but we are also talking about the supporting equipment.
“So, there is specific equipment that you need to resurface a court or there is specific equipment that you would need on the golf course that is technically in the world-wide global international market specified as sporting equipment.
“But, we haven’t updated that list, so the director of sport, the director of arts will work on updating that list and we will share with the honourable Minister of Finance.’’
The director of sport and recreation in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Eugenia Chidhakwa, Sports Commission director-general Prince Mupazviriho and Mufakose Member of Parliament Susan Matsunga attended the function.