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Sakunda needs to reconsider on Rufaro

Rufaro Stadium

IN yesterday’s NewsDay edition we carried quite an interesting, albeit disturbing, story on the country’s iconic Rufaro Stadium situated in the middle of Harare’s oldest high-density suburb Mbare.

In the story we were told that energy giant Sakunda Holdings had given up plans to renovate the stadium because it has apparently been frustrated by the Harare City Council (HCC), which owns the sports arena.

In a letter dated November 7, addressed to Harare mayor Jacob Mafume, Sakunda’s chief operating officer Mberikwazvo Chiyando said the company was “shocked and disturbed by the untruthful and malicious allegations that Sakunda intends to purchase Rufaro Stadium, which is a public asset”, which we understand is the crux of the reason why the company has decided to withdrew from the Rufaro Stadium rehabilitation project.

Harare mayor, in the meantime, asserts that he has no “idea of what Sakunda is saying. What I understand is that they wanted to get the stadium for 30 years for providing plastic chairs (bucket seats) and when we were in the middle of negotiations… they then went into a tantrum (and) threw away the baby and the water”. That this was a very noble initiative to renovate Rufaro Stadium that hosted our independence celebrations in 1980 cannot be overemphasised. The initiative was so noble that some of us become curious what could have so angered Sakunda that they would leave the negotiating table in a huff because mere allegations that they wanted to purchase the stadium could not be the only reason.

Obviously, from what the mayor has told us, for the council it would not make sense to sign a deal that would see the company take charge of the stadium for the next 30 years with no single cent accruing to council.

If Sakunda was, indeed, offering the renovation service with national interest at heart, why would it have asked to take charge of the sports arena for 30 years as Mafume has alleged? We would have thought that it would have been prudent on the part of Sakunda to offer to renovate the stadium and recoup its money over say five years or less depending on how much it would have spent. And being a company with the nation at heart we are sure this would have been the noblest thing to do.

As it is, because we were not at the negotiation table where Sakunda and HCC were trying to craft a memorandum of understanding, all we can do is appeal to Sakunda to cool off and approach this deal with national or public interest at heart.

Donating the project designs and plans to council, as it has said it will do, is unwise and will not help the company’s resume in any way. In fact, it makes no sense at all because HCC does not have the financial wherewithal to do renovations — even over the next 30 years. Sakunda should rethink its decision and return to the negotiating table with HCC and craft a deal that satisfies all parties because this is in the interest of the nation at large.

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