Sakunda to give Rufaro a facelift

Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter

IN a move that could change the face of football in this country, Sakunda Holdings are set to give Rufaro Stadium a massive face-lift after securing the iconic venue on a long-term lease from Harare City Council.

The energy giants, who also bankroll traditional local football powerhouses Dynamos and Highlanders, have agreed to upgrade the Mbare facility into a modern stadium that meets international standards and they have been given the naming rights too.

This follows their audacious application to Harare City Council for a lengthy adoption of the long neglected ground some few months ago.

And the municipality, who have been deliberating the issue for a long time now, agreed after a full council meeting last week to let out the stadium to the entity. Rufaro has not been able to host local football matches for some years now due to lack of maintenance. The stadium had become an eyesore due to the continued neglect and dilapidation.

But, under the proposed arrangement, Sakunda Holdings are expected to upgrade the entire stadium, including the playing turf, install bucket seats on the terraces and rehabilitate the outside pitches, including help in the resurfacing of the surrounding road network.

In their application to the municipality, the company promised to develop the ground into a world-class facility.

“Following the decision to support soccer (football) in Zimbabwe, and working through two of the country’s leading soccer (football) clubs and their communities at large, Sakunda, in its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, seeks to work with the City of Harare and achieve the following:

  1. A long-term lease for Rufaro Stadium
  2. Refurbishment of Rufaro Stadium into a FIFA approved soccer (football) facility
  3. Refurbishment of surrounding grounds, roads, parking and (other) facilities
  4. Refurbishment of the drainage system, sewer reticulation system, power supply and water supply system.

“As Sakunda Holdings, we present our interest to partner the City of Harare to rehabilitate and develop Rufaro Stadium infrastructure into a world class sporting facility,” read part of the proposal.

If rehabilitated to international standards, Sakunda Holdings have made it clear the stadium will remain available for use by all citizens of this country while they proposed Dynamos would use the venue for their home matches.

Belgravia Sports Club is also part of the plan as the company is interested in upgrading the facility with a view to make it available for training purposes for the Glamour Boys.

“Once Rufaro Stadium has been fully rehabilitated, local Premiership matches, regional CAF matches and international FIFA matches would be hosted there.

“Dynamos Football Club would also use the stadium (Rufaro) as its home ground. Belgravia Sports Club would be rehabilitated and its grounds used for regular training by Dynamos FC.

“Sakunda Holdings will manage the two facilities for the City Council for the duration of the approved lease period.

“Others would be allowed to use the facilities in liaison with facility managers.”

Rufaro will be upgraded in line with other municipal stadia across the world with Sakunda Holdings set to fund a team of experts for the exchange visit in a yet-to-be-named country or countries.

And the proposal has been approved by the Harare City Council following marathon meetings held over the past few months.

In a letter to Sakunda Holdings representative, Nqobile Magwizi, which was also copied to company director, Kuda Tagwirei, the acting Harare City Council Town Clerk, Phakamile Moyo, said the municipality is now working on a MoU to be signed between the two parties.

That will determine how long the lease deal would last.

“I am glad to advise that on February 28 (2022), Council granted the Acting Town Clerk authority to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of the City of Harare with Sakunda Holdings on the proposal for a long lease for (the) refurbishment of Rufaro Stadium to the FIFA soccer stadia standards subject to expectations of the city,” read the letter.

“The Council is in the process of preparing the Memorandum of Understanding. It further authorised a selected team to visit foreign countries to appreciate modalities of developing, refurbishing and upgrading of Municipal stadia, with the view of similar concepts in arrangements for upgrading of Councils stadia.

“May you now make the necessary arrangements for the selected team to undertake the said exchange visit to a country of your choice.”

The period within which Rufaro would be remodelled into a top facility will be determined once feasibility studies, which are set to start soon, are completed.

There is a possibility most, if not all, of the structures at the venue will be replaced, given the stadium was officially opened in early September 1972 after its construction and only upgraded to its current state in 1995 in the build-up to the All-Africa Games hosted in Zimbabwe.

The official seating capacity of the stadium is 35 000. City of Harare spokesman, Michael Chideme, made it clear on Tuesday the local authority wouldn’t lease any of their stadiums to individual clubs.

While Sakunda Holdings will be working on refurbishing the historic venue, they have also kick-started processes to do the same for Barbourfields with the Bulawayo City Council.

This move will certainly help the country after all of Zimbabwe’s stadiums, including the National Sports Stadium, had been banned from hosting international games because of the several handicaps.

This was also before the country was censured from participating in FIFA and CAF-sanctioned matches due to what the international football mother body termed “third party interference” following the suspension of the bungling Felton Kamambo-led ZIFA board by the Sports Commission in November last year.

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