Bingu National Stadium (BNS) officials have expressed regret that some people are descending on the modern football facility not to enjoy the games before them –but to steal and destroy property from the rare national asset.
The development has made the officials to institute investigations on who these vandals are. But it is clear that such vandals will be arrested and prosecuted, the officials told Weekend Nation this week.
When this reporter visited BNS on Thursday, he established that a fire hydrant, a large toilet mirror and two window panes had been vandalised. Also, most of the 920 water taps, in the 46 toilets at the stadium, were not operating normally —apparently because of being forced open or shut to the extreme.
BNS spokesperson Ireen Zilanda-Mkoko said the destructive pattern is growing and needs to be curbed.
“Some of the facilities like (water) taps and fire hydrant covers at the stadium have been destroyed because of ignorance on the part of football fans using them. For example, most of the taps installed are very modern and the users did not know where and how to press for water to come out. Most people are not familiar with fire hydrants and, in curiosity, they destroyed the covers, apparently to see what was inside,” she stated.
Zilanda-Mkoko explained that the BNS management has started replacing the 920 taps with taps most Malawians are familiar with. She denied recent reports that speakers had also been vandalised, saying the Chinese contractors had not fixed the speakers, in the first place, because of the suspected vandalism problem.
However, she could not tell how much will be spent on replacing the vandalised property, mainly because most of the property in the stadium was imported from China. But she stressed the need for the stadium to be given adequate civic education, including how to use the stadium facilities and in general behaviour.
Thanks to a three-year US$1.16 million technical cooperation agreement that will run until next year, all maintenance work at the stadium is currently the responsibility of a Chinese Government subcontractor as the stadium is still in its construction-defects period, with Chinese engineers handing down maintenance and management skills to their Malawian colleagues, in line with an agreement signed by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe and Chinese Ambassador to Malawi Shi-Ting Wang in December last year.
In an exclusive with Weekend Nation on Tuesday, Minister for Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasailra, warned that government will not sit quietly and watch the stadium being vandalised.
“When we have games, or events, it is not the responsibility of the ministry to organise security. It is those organizers (who are responsible). We provide security when there are no games. Organisers should take responsibility and put up adequate security, not only in the stands but also for services provided at the stadium. We are aware and are watching what is happening and we will take action if no solution is found to arrest the situation,” the minister warned..
Kasaila said one of the punitive measures may include withholding of gate shares for organisers like the Footbal Association of Malawi (FAM) and the Super League of Malawi (Sulom), who will be required to pay for damage to property and disorder at the stadium in incidents under their watch.
He added: “It is unfortunate that there have been incidents whereby players and match officials or even government officials have been beaten right there at the stadium by some fanatic supporters. It shows a serious lapse in security and this should not be the case. We want our players, supporters and everyone else to leave venues safely without harassment and we will take it up with organisers,” said Katsaila.
FAM admitted that as organisers, they have the responsibility to take more care of the stadium and also to ensure that patrons are safe.
“Even when you book a wedding hall, you are told to take responsibility to ensure the place is not vandalised. We can’t fault government for this stand. We are working with clubs to ensure that they establish security teams, including stewards, of their own to monitor their supporters as part of club licensing and next season we will roll out this project,” said FAM competitions manager Casper Jangale.
He said there is urgent need to embark on civic education in relation to facilities at the stadium, adding: “BNS is a new stadium and people need to know how it operates. It is our duty to ensure that the facility is well maintained and also that any vandals face the law for being irresponsible citizens.”