Town House, Sakunda trade barbs over bungled Rufaro deal

HARARE – Harare mayor Jacob Mafume has accused Kuda Tagwirei’s Sakunda Holdings of attempts snatch Rufaro Stadium from the local authority on the mere promise of terrace bucket seats as the two parties took to the media to trade accusations over the spoiled deal.

Under the deal, Sakunda Holdings, a new comer into the country’s football sponsorship world, pledged to lease the iconic facility for 30 years after providing plastic chairs under its renovation plan.

The deal has fallen through after city authorities and the energy dealer failed to agree on terms.

The opposition dominated local authority accused the company owned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally of attempts to indirectly purchase the 35,000 seater football and events facility on petty promises.

In a statement dated November 7, 2022, Sakunda accused Town House of peddling falsehoods the dealer intended to purchase Rufaro Stadium.

The Highlanders and Dynamos benefactor claimed this was a ploy to stymie its efforts to contribute to the “revival and modernization of public infrastructure”.

“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,” read Sakunda Holdings statement.

“We are shocked and disturbed by untruthful and malicious allegations that Sakunda intends to purchase Rufaro Stadium, which is a public asset.

“Consequently, we would like to hereby notify you of our immediate withdrawal from the partnership.”

Mafume has since hit back at the company saying it was attempting to dupe the local authority into leasing one of its most active public facilities for 30 years after providing only plastic chairs for renovations.

“I have no idea what Sakunda is saying. What I understand is that they wanted to get the stadium for 30 years for providing plastic chairs.

“And when we were in the middle of negotiating that surely a whole stadium cannot go just after someone donates plastic chairs.

“They then went into a tantrum and threw the baby and the bath water. What is clear to us is that business people have for long had a parasitic relationship with the city of Harare,” said Mafume.

Sakunda Holdings announced in March its intention to renovate Rufaro Stadium to accommodate both local and international football matches.

The famed Zimbabwe ceremonial home hosted football matches during the 2019 league season before being red-flagged by the Zifa First Instance Board in 2020.

Beyond football, the Mbare facility has iconic relevance to the country as it is the stadium that hosted the legendary lowering of the Union Jack by the then Prince Charles, now king of England, to symbolise the hand over of the country’s authority from British to black rule.

The stadium’s infrastructure had deteriorated to a deplorable state prior to Sakunda Holdings’ withdrawal.

Mafume stated that the City of Harare is now wary of corporate entities that seek to enrich themselves by exploiting the local authority.

He also stated that HCC was implementing a new strategy for due diligence to determine whether proposed contracts were beneficial to residents and the local authority before signing an agreement.

“A few years ago some of these business people took huge tracts of land after donating bicycles, motor bikes and some sort of machinery and went to claim huge pieces of land from the city. We cannot keep repeating what used to happen in the yester years.

“If you want to assist the city as a corporate fine, but if you want to take from the city after assisting it then surely we should discuss whatever assistance you need to provide in direct and clear terms.

“We have not put Rufaro Stadium for sale and therefore anyone who wants to assist, who wants naming rights to the stadium must enter into a contract of naming rights which is recognizable like the ones we see everywhere in the world,” said Mafume.

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