Sakunda Holdings, who had committed to give Rufaro Stadium a massive face-lift after entering into a partnership with the Harare City Council, have withdrawn from the project with immediate effect.
The two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding early this year, enabling Sakunda to carry out some feasibility work.
They toured South African stadia, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup final venue FNB stadium and Moses Mabhida, together with council officials to get key guidelines.
The energy giants, who also bankroll traditional local football powerhouses Dynamos and Highlanders, had agreed to upgrade the Mbare facility into a modern stadium that meets international standards.
But yesterday Sakunda Holdings chief operations, Mberikwazvo Chitambo, wrote to Harare Mayor, Jacob Mafume, informing him that they were dropping the project.
“Given the toxicity we have now seen in council’s attitude, and a lack of political will to implement the project on the part of council, Sakunda hereby withdraws its participation from the project. Notwithstanding, all project designs and plans will be donated to Council in the public interest,” wrote Chitambo.
Sakunda says they were unhappy that their corporate social responsibility was viewed by some council officials as a bid to takeover Rufaro 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.
“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 co-ordinated attempt to curtail our efforts to contribute to the revival and modernisation of public infrastructure.
“We wish to place it on record again that 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.
Consequently, we would like to hereby notify you of our immediate withdrawal from the partnership,” wrote Chitambo.
No comment could be obtained from the Mayor of Harare, Mafume, yesterday.
Rufaro has not been able to host local football matches for some years now due to lack of maintenance. The stadium had become an eyesore due to the continuous neglect and dilapidation.
But all that was going to end as Sakunda Holdings, under its proposed arrangement, was expected to upgrade the entire stadium, including the playing turf, install bucket seats on the terraces and rehabilitate the outside pitches, including help in the resurfacing of the surrounding road network.
While the energy giant are withdrawing from the Rufaro deal, they are galvanising their footprints in local football after pledging to pay Highlanders players 250 per cent bonuses.
The Bosso and DeMbare players get their salaries from the energy giant.
They entered into the agreement in September last year and under the agreement, Dynamos and Highlanders were to get US$150 000 in the event they qualified for any of the CAF competitions.
But both fell short with DeMbare finishing the season on third place while Bosso finished two places behind the Glamour Boys.
But, that hasn’t dampened the energy giant in any way who have pledged to reward the Bulawayo giants with a hefty 250 per cent bonus.
That means each Bosso player will get an average of US$2 500.
Sakunda Holdings have since financed Highlanders’ bosses benchmarking trip to European top clubs while Dynamos bosses will do the same next month.