RECREATIONAL facilities in Bulawayo have crumbled due to several years of neglect and vandalism.
REPORT BY MUSA DUBE
The facilities, mainly youth centres located in the city’s high-density suburbs, were designed to entertain young people through various activities such as dramas, choirs, boxing, basketball, swimming, netball and soccer.
A tour by Standardcommunity last week in Bulawayo’s Mpopoma, Mzilikazi, Makokoba, Sizinda and Tshabalala high-density suburbs revealed that most of the facilities have deteriorated and are no longer usable.
Once the pride of local suburbs, the facilities are now run down due to vandalism and neglect by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC), the custodian of the facilities.
Peter Ngwenya, a resident of Mzilikazi suburb, bemoaned the current state of the recreational and youth centres around the city.
“We used to call them 16 Plus Youth Centres and they were a big source of entertainment for the townships. No one could enter those premises without permission and we could only access them during a given time,” he said.
“These centres played important and multi-faceted roles and were a platform for entertainment to residents. They catered for the sporting needs of the youth and were feeder entities for a number of sporting clubs such as Highlanders Football Club.”
A former Bulawayo schools development tennis ball coach, Ambrose Nyoni said most of the tennis courts and grounds were now rutted and were covered by overgrown grass and bushes.
He said it was no surprise that the region had no tennis players to talk about, as the nurturing grounds had been destroyed.
“These institutions were put in place to be breeding places for talent and it is unfortunate that they have been destroyed,” said Nyoni. “These are the places where the future Byron Blacks are supposed to come from.”
He said there was a lot of untapped and raw talent in the communities, but unfortunately they were not being exposed because there are no more facilities.
“With the exception of South Africa, most of the countries in the region like Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia have never had an opportunity to own such centres like the one we had here in Zimbabwe and in Bulawayo in particular, but it’s unfortunate we have destroyed it,” Nyoni said.
Bulawayo United Residents Association chairperson, Winos Dube said the collapse of the facilities had become a thorn in the flesh for residents.
“These are some of the challenges that we have been talking about, to say there is a lot of infrastructure which has just collapsed which shows that the standard of development has actually deteriorated to such levels where we are calling on the local authorities in conjunction with the corporate world to resuscitate the facilities,” said Dube.
“There were a lot of people who were developed from these facilities, such as Cont Mhlanga, who came from these systems that were there some years back.
These places should be revived so that our youths can be occupied and are able to develop their skills and talents,” he said.
Mhlanga is a renowned artiste who built Amakhosi Centre in Bulawayo for the benefit of youths and the promotion of culture.
Dube called upon the city council to revive the crumbling infrastructure, saying that would help remove youths from the streets where they engaged in nefarious activities such as drug abuse and prostitution.
Bulawayo deputy mayor, Amen Mpofu said plans were underway to resuscitate the community centres.
“As council, our plans are to reinvest in the infrastructure but we need to first come up with a lasting solution on how to protect them from irresponsible people in our communities,” said Mpofu.