Safa fed up with slow city

2011-01-31 00:00

FOOTBALL World Cup glitter has faded fast in Pietermaritzburg.

The local Umgungundlovu and provincial South African Football Association (Safa) offices have been trashed by burglars and the association has been battling for more than a year to sort out its accommodation problems with the Msunduzi Municipality.

Safa’s acting provincial president, Eric Mtshatsha, said they are fed up with the runaround they’ve had to endure, and a recent encounter with a municipal staffer was the last straw.

According to Mtshatsha the problem goes back to before the start of the World Cup. The Umgungundlovu and provincial Safa offices were based at Harry Gwala Stadium.

When the stadium was being revamped, Safa was given temporary accommodation by the municipality in a building behind AB Jackson Hockey fields in Alexandra Park.

The understanding was that they would return to Harry Gwala after the revamp.

In December 2009 lightning struck the building, damaging the electrical system.

The municipality made numerous attempts to repair the damage, but without luck. The result is that

Burglars have since have broken into the building, stealing computers and furniture and trashing the place, and destroying records and documents.

The alarm unit was wrenched from the walls. Ironically, Safa is still paying for its alarm contract.

The organisation was forced to move to offices in town, which Mtshatsha says are far from ideal as they need to be near a football ground for selections.

Safa tried on numerous occasions to sort out the problem and a letter by acting regional executive officer Hloni Hlongwane to administrator Johann Mettler some eight months later in August 2010 sets out Safa’s frustrations.

The letter says: “We have tried to solicit assistance from the following people [at the municipality], Messrs Steve Naick, Mandla Zuma, the suspended Zwe Hulane and Sergie Franklyn, without any success.

“Recently the region met with the mayor of Msunduzi Mike Tarr as well as the MEC for Finance, Ms Ina Cronje, for their intervention.

“Although the meeting was positive and promises made to fast-track the process, things are unfortunately still as they were.”

Further negotiations then followed and Safa was presented with three options — the use of Manor grounds or Dale Park or returning to Alexandra Park.

With no progress on the Alexandra Park front and the Manor grounds offer falling away, Safa settled for Dale Park.

This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. According to Mtshatsha they were referred to a junior staff member at the municipal offices in Professor Nyembezi building.

He claims this person did not appear to know about Safa, nor about the option offered to the association and they were told they had to go on a waiting list.

A frustrated Mtshatsha said: “The municipality always raises the issue of being cash-strapped, but they have not spoken to us to find out what we can bring to the party.” He said ideally Safa would like to go back to Harry Gwala Stadium.

If this is not possible they want the municipality to reconnect the electricity in the trashed office and Safa would do the rest in terms of raising funds to revamp the building.

“All we want is the opportunity to present our options, which we believe if properly discussed could have a lasting solution.

“We’ve had discussions with the KZN Department of Sports and Recreation, so why can’t we have similar discussions with the municipality?”

Mtshatsha said Msunduzi cannot wipe its hands completely of the issue as it has been made clear at national government level that municipalities do have a social responsibility towards the development of grassroots football.

“The Cricket Association has a home in the city at the Oval, rugby has the Woodburn Stadium and hockey has the AB Jackson centre, while football has nothing,” he said.

 

TEXT BOX

Msunduzi Municipality’s spokesman Brian Zuma responds: It is rather unfortunate that an association that represents a code of sport enjoyed by the majority of our people does not have offices to operate from. But again the situation with the Municipality has been and still is business unusual. We are currently testing the market to see if it is a viable option to lease out sporting infrastructure, including soccer fields and buildings to clubs and or associations to manage and maintain whilst they have total control over such infrastructure. This, if it’s a successful venture, will mean that associations and or clubs will have what they can call their homes. Specifically on the matter of SAFA, I am going to facilitate an urgent internal meeting with the relevant officials, before we convene a meeting with SAFA. There are several issues we need to look into, including the level at which as Msunduzi Municipality we need to engage and where possible assist SAFA; whether it’s Msunduzi, Mgungundlovu or Provincial SAFA. I am saying this to clarify that we as Msunduzi Municipality, should be careful not to shoulder a responsibility that perhaps lies with uMgungundlovu District Municipality, or the Provincial Department of Sports and Recreation.

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