HARARE – Gloves have been taken off after Sakunda Holdings announced it has withdrawn its offer to refurbish the municipality-owned Rufaro Stadium, furiously accusing Harare’s city council of deliberately and “maliciously” foiling the deal for political reasons.

In a stinging and no-holds-barred statement released on Tuesday, Sakunda claims its proposal to overhaul the Fifa-condemned ground was “entirely philanthropic”, whilst the Council has hit back claiming that the energy company wanted to install bucket seats at Rufaro in a deceitful bid to take over the dilapidated but historic stadium.

“Following our numerous unsuccessful requests to present to your office our final feasibility study report and proposed designs for the refurbishment of Rufaro Stadium, we write to express our gravest misgivings on the unfortunate events and communications emanating from your office,” read the statement signed by Sakunda chief operations officer Mberikwazvo Chitambo.

“We are shocked and disturbed by untruthful and malicious allegations that Sakunda intends to purchase Rufaro Stadium, which is a public asset. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we believe you know that. These unfounded allegations are grounded on malice and a coordinated attempt to curtail our efforts to contribute to the revival and modernisation of public infrastructure.”

The run-down Rufaro – traditional home of Zimbabwe’s biggest club Dynamos and the country’s premier international venue in the early years of Independence – has turned into a complete eyesore over the years and no longer host even domestic football matches.

Sakunda are the club sponsors of Dynamos and Bulawayo giants Highlanders, the country’s two biggest football clubs. The money-spinning business empire was previously reported to have offered to spruce up Rufaro as a gesture of service to the community.

“Sakunda did not have any commercial interests in this project, suffice to say that our participation in the same was entirely philanthropic, for the public good,” wrote Chitambo.

Harare mayor Jacob Mafume, meanwhile, has dismissed the offer coming from Sakunda as a raw deal for the capital city and its residents.

Sakunda, he said, was angling for a “parasitic relation” with the Council.

“I have no idea what Sakunda is saying, what I understand is that they wanted to get the stadium for 30 years for providing plastic chairs and when we were in the middle of negotiating, we said surely the whole stadium cannot go just like that because someone has donated plastic chairs,” said Mafume.

“They then went into a tantrum and threw the baby and the bathwater. What is clear to use is that business people have for long had a parasitic relation with the City of Harare. People come to Harare with nothing, Harare makes them millionaires. And when Harare needs assistance, they then say give us land when it is the city that has contributed to them. Years ago some of these people took huge chunks of land from Harare after donating bicycles, motorbikes and some sort of machinery and went on to claim huge pieces of land. We cannot keep on repeating what has been happening yesteryear…We have not put Rufaro Stadium for sale, and therefore anyone who wants to assist, who wants naming rights, must enter into a contract that is recognisable like the ones we see anywhere else in the world, not like this one where we end up losing a whole stadium because we asked someone to provide plastic chairs.”

Sakunda slammed the Council for lacking “political will”, stating that they have pulled out of the negotiations for those reasons.

“Given the toxicity we have now seen in Council’s attitude, and lack of political will to implement the project on the part of Council, Sakunda hereby withdraws its participation from the project.”

Sakunda was founded by wealthy business magnate Kuda Tagwirei, who has close ties with the Zimbabwean government. On the other hand, the City of Harare is run by the main opposition party, the recently renamed Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), which had dominated elections in the Zimbabwean capital city since its formation around the turn of the millennium.


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