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Public pressure and financial challenges have forced contractor of Zomba Stadium to trim the facility’s seating capacity from 20 000 to 8 000 spectators.
DEC Construction Company Limited managing director Daniel Charlie said this yesterday in an interview after a meeting with Zomba City Mayor Davie Maunde and some concerned sports lovers in the district.
He said: “We are supposed to finalise construction works within this financial year, but we have not been given enough funds to necessitate the completion of a 20 000-capacity stadium. Therefore, we have resolved to finish the works at 8 000 capacity.”
The 2022/23 Malawi Government financial year will end on March 31 2023.
Charlie added that due to the erratic funding for the project has given us way to rising cost and vandalism of construction materials, it is better to leave the facility as it is.
The K4 billion project was expected to be concluded within three years since 2015, but now seven years have passed.
Last year, the Ministry of Local Government indicated that the delayed project needed K2.4 billion to be completed.
Zomba Concerned Sports Lovers coordinator Rajabu Namalaka said they are not happy with the contractor’s decision, but they could not take a stand against it.
“The contractors say once they reduce the capacity, the stadium will be ready by April 2023. This gives us hope that we will at least be able to watch games within our fold,” he said.
“However, it is not fair for a 20 000 capacity stadium to be trimmed down to 8 000 capacity. We are hopeful that the government through our mayor will do something to help solve the problem.”
Maunde has since assured the concerned soccer lovers that he will try his best to engage the Ministry of Local Government and ask for the funds to speed up the completion of the project.
There has been pressure for the contractor to speed up the construction of the facility, which is a possible home venue for Zomba-based TNM Super League side Red Lions.
President Lazarus Chakwera also urged Zomba City Council and Ministry of Local Government to complete the construction and expansion of the facility after it missed its October 2020 deadline.
Speaking at Sanjika Palace when he hosted Zomba City councillors and secretariat staff in December 2020, Chakwera said he would like to see it once again hosting high-profile matches.
Once it is completed and meets the world football governing body Fifa’s standards, the stadium will be eligible to host TNM Super League and other high-profile football matches in the country.
Football lovers watch Lions’ elite home matches away at either Balaka Stadium or Mpira Stadium in Blantyre.
Apart from football, the stadium is also expected to host other disciplines such as athletics, volleyball and netball.
When asked about government’s response to the stadium’s capacity reduction, Local Government Ministry’s spokesperson Anjoya Mwanza asked for more time but did not revert.
Early this year, Zomba City planned to open Zomba Stadium on July 31, but Football Association of Malawi queried the decision since the facility was incomplete