THE City of Harare, struggling to curb cholera and typhoid as well as deliver service to its two million residents, is allegedly spending more than $2 million annually on its soccer team, it has emerged.
Residents’ associations have claimed that the team was being used as a platform to loot public funds by the city fathers.
The local authority sponsors Harare City Football Club which plays in the country’s top flight soccer league.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) said in a statement the city fathers’ priorities were warped, adding it was disturbed by the lack of transparency and credibility in the running of the affairs at council.
CHRA implored the city fathers to prioritise effective service delivery and prevent needless loss of lives arising from diseases such as cholera and typhoid, which continued to wreak havoc in the capital city.
“Recent revelations by Harare Mayor, Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni over funding for Harare City Football Club vindicate our long-held assertion that the club has been turned into a platform for looting of public funds by city bigwigs,” CHRA said in the statement released Tuesday.
“As Mayor Manyenyeni, who quit as the club’s patron in March 2017 rightly put it, funding for the Harare City Football Club as well as revenue from the sale or acquisition of players is shrouded in secrecy,” CHRA continued.
The residents’ association said while it had nothing against sports development, they felt that sport should not take precedence over effective service delivery.
“It is shocking that a patron of a community football club, in this case Harare City Football Club, would resign over lack of transparency in handling of finances as well as the fact that the Harare City Council is failing to set its priorities right by allocating obscene amounts to the team at a time 25 out of 47 of the city’s refuse collection trucks are down,” CHRA said.
CHRA threatened to mobilise residents for demonstrations against the council if it failed to conduct a forensic audit of the football club.
“Mayor Manyenyeni has revealed that a forensic audit would possibly embarrass council and for us, the Mayor’s revelations are indeed a pointer to the deep routed corruption at Harare City Football Club.”
Harare council spokesperson, Michael Chideme confirmed the senior team was allocated $2 million for this season.
He however, said the budget was approved by the full council and there was no secrecy in the manner in which the money was used.
“Our total sports budget stands at $5.5 million which is broken down as follows; golf-$100 000, Volley ball- $255, 743, netball-$323,333, Basket-ball (both male and female teams)- $1 376,124, Inter-cities tournament- $100 000, women’s soccer-$500 000, Junior Soccer (Division 1) $475 000, Councillors Ward sports kits acquisition- $80 000, Ward sports facilities development- $150 000, Council schools tournament-$150 000 and Senior men’s soccer- $2 million,” Chideme said.
He defended the huge sports budget saying it was a separate budget which had nothing to do with service delivery, adding they were in the process of buying 30 more new refuse collection vehicles.
“These things are budgeted for separately; we are buying 20 new trucks right now; in fact, they are 30-10 skip trucks and 20 frond end loaders. The ones we have are old because they were bought a long time ago and they work for up to 18 hours a day,” he said.
The council spokesperson said there were currently 26 refuse trucks on the road and that their engineers were on the ground repairing the broken-down ones.
Chideme said people should instead, applaud the council for nurturing and grooming sporting talent for the country while creating employment at the same time.
“It must be appreciated that we have a catch them young programme for juniors in wards where we are identifying talent from 32 primary schools and grooming talent for Zimbabwe, we are an incubator.
“We are also creating employment for the coaches of these sporting disciplines, the medics, the suppliers of sports kits and the vendors who sell foodstuffs at the sports events,” he said.
Chideme said council was in good books with Manyenyeni and did not want to fight with him over the matter.
Manyenyeni resigned as the club’s patron last month, citing abuse of ratepayers’ funds at the club, arguing the city should prioritise ‘bread and butter’ issues.
He castigated the club’s two-week long pre-season camp in Nyanga while the city only had 22 working refuse trucks out of the 47.
“Two-week pre-season physical fitness extravaganza in Nyanga Resort? Possibly the only team in the league which can afford this luxury funded generously by ratepayers through a council with only 22 out of 47 garbage trucks working.
“The annual football budget can possibly buy 20 new garbage trucks which last a minimum seven years, instantly filling up the gap in waste collection capacity,” the mayor was quoted as saying last month.