ALL major towns and cities the world over had their growth sparked by a single phenomenon, and the country could as well start bracing for further impetus at Matabeleland North’s Tsholotsho.
The announcement by the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo, last week that government had taken over the construction of the stadium in Tsholotsho, which will be used by Tsholotsho Football Club which made history by becoming the first team from rural Zimbabwe to qualify for the country’s Premier League, was a bold step in opening further avenues for the development of the area.
Lying about 100km from Bulawayo, Tsholotsho has been yearning for more oomph in as far as development is concerned, and the successful construction of the sports facility, which will also bring employment opportunities to locals, is likely to jerk the wheels of infrastructural development, with the road network linking the town to Bulawayo a likely second undertaking. Once you have more traffic to the centre, businesses will reap the rewards and other sectors will also start to respond positively.
Perhaps the headache after the construction of the stadium would be to keep the team in the top league so that Tsholotsho remains a definite destination for top teams who are scattered all over the country, talk of Hwange, Zvishavane, Harare, Gweru, Kariba, Mutare and Bulawayo. The facility will also be at hand to host other big national football events, with a view of spreading national team’s games to other parts of the country, just like Zvishavane which has hosted a number of major cup tournaments.
In fact, the growth of Zvishavane was sparked by the growth in the mining sector, starting with asbestos and platinum mining keeping the city alive in recent years with massive work at Mimosa Mine, which has also done well in terms of community responsibility projects, building a school as well as houses in the area.
Another area in Matabeleland North, Lupane, is set for boom once construction of Lupane State University is complete and students and staff move to the capital of Matabeleland North.
More houses will have to be built for those enrolled at the university and other sectors of the economy will also reap the rewards of the investment by the government.
Perhaps those coming to Tsholotsho to watch football will have the opportunity to look around for investment opportunities. The business centre and surrounding schools have electricity with tower lights affording people the opportunity to engage and work till late, and there is also a commercial bank in the vicinity.
A team of engineers from the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, led by chief engineer Edward Njoma were at the site last Friday, with Professor Moyo who led the delegation that also included Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Cain Mathema.
The new development will also dovetail with the government’s efforts to pursue public private partnerships, with a local construction company, J R Goddard Construction revealing that it would provide services at cost value. Also roped in for the project is internationally recognised Mota-Engil, a Portuguese company that is into construction and civil engineering. The companies and government will join hands with the local team representing Tsholotsho FC which had already started on refurbishing the pitch which was used by the club while in Division One, so as to meet Premiership standards.
“Construction of Tsholotsho Stadium meets the national policy planning objective and therefore qualifies as a national project hence the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, led by Minister Ignatius Chombo has deployed a team of technicians and engineers to the site,” said Prof Moyo.
He added that once the stadium meets Zifa and PSL standards, it would be able to host international matches. The team will start the season playing “home away from home”, based at White City Stadium in Bulawayo.
“. . . because not only local teams will play here but even foreign teams like Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa), Zamalek (Egypt) could play here especially if we win the league in three years as promised by the chairman, a dream which I know will become a reality.”
A five-point work plan was immediately set in motion by JR Goddard managing director Jim Ross Goddard.
“We need to identify the scope of our work, come up with a plan so that we’re sure of what we’re building. After coming up with the plan, it then has to be approved. We do the costing after that and then lastly we need to know how we’re going to fund this whole project. We need the stadium to be ready for use by July,” said Goddard.
The news that government had taken over the construction of the stadium was received with joy by the local community.
“We really feel proud and honoured as the people of Tsholotsho and as a committee we are going to work with the new experts from the government and render all the support they might need from us,” said Sicelo Dube, chairman of the stadium steering committee.