Sports Minister Blames Councils for Poor Stadiums

Kirsty Coventry says local authorities are hindering the development of sports infrastructure in Zimbabwe

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Kirsty Coventry, has accused local councils of being uncooperative and creating “turf wars” that prevent the improvement of sports facilities in the country.

Coventry made the remarks on Thursday during an open session on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture.

She said her ministry had a vision to upgrade and maintain the existing stadiums, as well as build new ones, but faced resistance from some councils that claimed ownership of the land and infrastructure.

“We need help because some of these areas are under councils and we do not have a great relationship with councils, there is always turf wars ‘this is mine, we don’t want you here’,” she said.

“So we will rely heavily on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to help build this relationship so that we can work together and make progress.”

Coventry added that her ministry had met with all councilors last year to explain their plans and seek their collaboration, but the response was not satisfactory.

Deteriorating state of stadiums

Zimbabwe has been struggling with the poor state of its sports infrastructure for years, with most of the stadiums being dilapidated and unfit for hosting international events.

The National Sports Stadium, the country’s largest venue, was recently condemned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for failing to meet the required standards.

The stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000, needs urgent renovations on its pitch, dressing rooms, toilets, and floodlights, among other issues.

The Ministry of Sports was allocated ZWL136 billion ($1.6 million) in the 2024 budget, of which ZWL 24 billion ($280,000) was earmarked for the National Sports Stadium’s renovation.

However, Coventry said the funds were not enough to cover the costs of the project and appealed for more support from the treasury and the private sector.

She also said the ministry was working on a public-private partnership model to involve investors in the development of sports infrastructure.

Other challenges facing the sports sector

Apart from the lack of adequate facilities, the sports sector in Zimbabwe also faces other challenges such as low funding, poor governance, lack of equipment, and limited opportunities for athletes.

Coventry, who is a former Olympic gold medalist in swimming, said her ministry was committed to addressing these challenges and promoting the growth and development of sports in the country.

She said the ministry had launched several initiatives to support athletes, coaches, and administrators, such as the Athlete Welfare Fund, the National Sports Development Fund, and the Sports and Recreation Commission Academy.

She also said the ministry was working on improving the sports curriculum in schools, colleges, and universities, as well as creating more platforms for talent identification and development.

Coventry expressed optimism that the sports sector would recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted many activities and events last year.

She said the ministry was following the health guidelines and protocols to ensure the safety and well-being of all stakeholders. She also congratulated the athletes who had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to take place in July and August this year.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we are determined to make a difference and restore the glory of Zimbabwean sports,” she said.

Source: New Zimbabwe

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