Stakeholders in Gweru have implored government and city council to resuscitate recreational facilities in and around the city, as most of the facilities are not serving their intended purposes.
Most recreational centres are being used as churches and pre-schools, a development that has affected most initiatives within the sport and art sectors.
Speaking at a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youths, Sport, Arts and Recreation public hearing on November 6 in Gweru, cultural activist and musician, Joseph Tawanda Nhara (aka Man-Souljah) said most recreational centers and trust organisations in the province are abused by sectors not even linked to sport and recreation.
He added that young people are also failing to access these facilities due to exorbitant rates being billed by the local authority.
“My question to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee is simply as, I want to find out how best we can engage council and government as residents and stakeholders to help us restore our trust organisation like the Midlands Academy of Music to their proper use.
“These facilities were handed over to the public for public use and were run by boards of directors but to our surprise, their intended use long changed as they are being leased out. These boards and management committees no longer exist and elections long ceased.
“It is a sad development because these places seem to have been personalised. Some of the facilities were turned into pre-schools and churches as well as company offices,” added Nhara.
He further said youths were indulging in drug activities as they did not have productive centres of convergence.
“As for our theater, it was manned by theater guilds who later on returned the facility to council under the mandate of serving the public.
“Now the theater is being rented to various churches and over time it has become so dilapidated. We have a lot of children and professional actors who are into theater, movies but cannot use the facilities. My appeal is those not entitled to use these centers must stay away for purposes of development of arts.
“Our city has city planners so they must make sure that churches get land where they are supposed to construct own facilities,” he said.
Meanwhile Gweru Sports Club chairperson John Makuwalo said as a recreational centre they were struggling to come to terms with the prevailing council bills which he feels are too much for the tenants.
“My appeal to committee is we recently received a bill of ZW$ 400 000 and still do not understand how council came up with such a figure when we are not having council supplied water. At one point we engaged council with a payment and our challenges on access to water but the debt is still growing,” said Makuwalo.
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson for Youths, Sports, Arts and Recreation who is also the Member of Parliament for Vungu constituency, Omega Sibanda tasked Gweru council to present all the paperwork concerning arts and recreational centres in the city.
“So let me put the Mayor to task that by November 20, 2021 we want all the paperwork concerning recreational centres and Arts Trust Organisations so that we understand where we are coming from, who is currently renting or leasing these facilities. We want to come back and have a tour of these of facilities as a committee,” Sibanda said.
Presenting on the state of security provision at recreational centres, Gweru Mayor Josiah Makombe said council was trying to upgrade other facilities like the Gweru African Football Association (GAFA) and Ascot Stadiums.
“We are still worried with the issue of vandalism whereby we are trying to resuscitate our grounds but we have challenge of resources as our budgets sometimes fail to cater for all the refurbishments,” Makombe said.