BY MOSES MATENGA
FORMER HARARE mayor Bernard Manyenyeni says he still regrets council’s decision to fund Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Harare City FC as it has compromised service delivery, adding that the money poured in to date — an estimated US$10 million — would have bought more than 100 refuse trucks.
Manyenyeni told StandardSport yesterday that the decision to pour in such huge amounts to sponsor football should be a case to regret for a long time as nothing much had been recovered from the move.
“It is a cruel reminder that possibly US$10 million of Harare ratepayers’ money went into a football project. Enough to buy 100 refuse trucks. Harare needs less than half that number lasting average seven years each,” Manyenyeni said.
He said at least 14 years’ worth of refuse collection capacity was lost to football, adding that wards including Ward 17 (Mt Pleasant) were “screaming for garbage collection”.
“That is the historical context of it all, I really regret and we should regret that we never managed to see sense to that extent. It should always be a matter of collective regret and I would have been a loud man, maybe a loud voice, but it should be a matter of collective regret as we now struggle with capacity.
Right now we do not even know who the captain of Harare City was two years ago, but we were blowing that kind of money away,” Manyenyeni said.
Council is currently divided over whether or not to continue pouring millions into the project or channel the resources to service delivery.
It emerged the MDC-dominated council was not happy with the continued sponsorship of the team as it was affecting service delivery, but some elements, mainly councillors in the information and publicity committee, in charge of running the club, were reportedly keen on continuing with the sponsorship.
This comes also amid suspicion that some of them were personally benefiting as they receive allowances and are booked into hotels whenever the team travels for matches outside Harare.
MDC secretary for local government Elias Mudzuri recently said the party was weighing on the importance of continuing to fund soccer at the expense of service delivery and was consulting residents on the matter.
“The party position is that we must be able to consult residents to hear what they think about football outside service delivery. The process is still on-going. We also want to see what is being spent on football,” he said.
“People are struggling. The residents we expect to pay bills and so on are suffering because of the economy and we are saying prioritise.”
Recently, Ward 16 councillor Denford Ngadziore fumed during a council meeting on why football was being prioritised at the expense of service delivery.
“We always hear that refuse is not collected because there is no fuel, we have never heard that the football team fails to travel or fulfil its fixture because there is no fuel. “Let us put our priorities right,” he said.
The club survived relegation last season after engaging veteran gaffer Lloyd Chitembwe and has been very active on the transfer market bringing in a number of players in preparation for the coming season, including former CAPS United captain Hardlife Zvirekwi.
Information and publicity committee chairperson Barnabas Ndira said the committee was making frantic efforts to engage potential sponsors.
Harare last year had a total budget of $6 million for sport with $1.5 million going towards football.