Thursday, February 2, 2023

Did govt sell us a 40 000 capacity stadium dummy?

By Anita Rannoba

Show us a state-of-the-art stadium and we’ll show you a government that lies.

In 2015, the government considered building a state-of-the-art stadium in or around Gaborone during the National Development Plan 11.

This was inspired by Botswana’s ambition to host major international tournaments. Four years later we still have nothing to show of this plan. Oh no we do! It’s a dummy.

The 40 000 seating capacity stadium was to be the first of its kind in Botswana catering for world class events.  While the nation waits for this state-of-the-art stadium, the government and its sporting bodies are failing to maintain the few outdated stadia we have.

It is evident that sporting codes are losing hope in believing that they will ever get proper sporting facilities seeing how the government fails to construct world class stadia.

Speaking in an interview with the Sunday standard, Botswana Netball Association Public Relations Officer, Theresa Hirschfield, said the state of facilities in this country is a setback for sporting codes.

She said no matter how much they try to talk and show the importance of having at least one proper stadium accommodating many sporting codes the Botswana National Sport Council (BNSC) hides behind its sloppiness and cuts corners with the usual response – there is no money.

“It is really painful watching BNSC pushing their agendas while codes are suffering let alone athletes. My take on this matter is for us to come together as codes and build one big facility which has accommodation, offices etc. It would be great. But not for the BNSC which is refusing to help us,” regretted Hirschfield.

She said it pains her to be told by the BNSC they will deduct money from their grant if BNSC has to build the stadium. Hirschfield said: “What seems to be important at the BNSC is buying cars and establishing themselves. We would be taken to Francistown for sporting events where there are no facilities just because of political interest. Look at the state of Netball grounds, they are a wreck.”

The chief executive officer for the BNSC, Tuelo Serufho, by hie own admission said it is true that athletic tracks and football pitches at the national stadium are not up to standard.

He alluded the sorry state of affairs to damage from being used for national activities other none sporting programmes.

“It is with grief that due to not meeting international standards of facilities the little that the country has is not taken care of, said Serufho.

“First of all I must state that we have very few facilities of international standards, across all sporting codes. In my view, the few facilities e.g.’ National Stadium, the UB Swimming Pool, the UB indoor hall’ are generally well maintained. Of course I must hasten to state that it is not every facility. And indeed this is not all the time. For example, the only other Olympic size swimming pool in the country at Otse Police College has not been really maintained well over the last few years,” Serufho said.

He noted that the country does not have the right facilities to host some of the international competitions.

Our football stadia fall short of seating capacity of the requirements by the CAF for the Africa Cup of Nations.

He added that there are no warm up tracks next to the IAAF certified athletics venues to be able to host competitions such as the World Championships.

We do not have the right venues to be able to host some international multi-sport competitions such as the Youth Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games.

When it comes to the duration of when the country will have a world class stadium, Serufho noted that before Botswana has a world class stadium; the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture (MYSC) would be better placed as Government responsible for sport infrastructure development.

“Due to the very limited funding to National Federations, most of those that have own facilities often struggle with maintenance thereof, which creates a bit of a challenge as the facilities may not only hinder any hosting possibilities but they may also not provide congenial training environment for athletes. There are cases where there are no facilities at all and this will impede sport development,” he said.

Facility development should not just be left to MYSC only, Serufho said. Highlighting that other ministries and the private sector must come to the party.

Sport and physical activities are said to delay or even stop the onset of some medical conditions like non communicable diseases.

Consequently there is a notion that the Ministry of Health and Wellness should invest in sport recreational facilities and promote lifestyle Serufho said.

“Wharic and Debswana are good examples of the corporate sector investment in sport infrastructure development. Other corporate should come on board and help,” he concluded.

“The stadium will be instrumental in facilitating the country’s possibility of hosting major international sport events such as Africa Cup of Nations, African Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Youth Games amongst others,” Olopeng added.

The Gaborone National Stadium, a 25 000 seating capacity stadium is not able to hold tournaments of international repute.

While sport is a source of entertainment and leisure, it is also a source of income as evidenced by local successful athletes and footballers including 800m medallist Nigel Amos, 400m gold medallist Amantle Montsho and the legendary footballers Mogakolodi Tsotso Ngele playing his trade mark in South Africa.

During the National Development Plan 11, the then Minister of Youth Sports and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng said the 40 000 seating capacity stadium will be instrumental in facilitating the country’s possibility of hosting major international sports events.

Is Minister, Tshekedi Khama ready to rise to the occasion?


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