Little did I know when I saw a Facebook post by the Enoch Mgijima Municipality that they would be opening a sports stadium at Lesseyton that I would be walking into an intense media storm. I have been keeping tabs on the progress of that field since it was started in 2019 because, as a sports practitioner, I had a vested interest in the development of such a facility in that village.
When I rushed there on Monday to actually witness the handover and finally be able to check it out properly I had not expected that such a seemingly innocuous event would turn out to be the number 1 trending bit of news in the whole country. I have never seen such a furore caused by four poorly thought-out pieces of photography. If this was meant to be a feel good story and intended to show that the ANC led municipality is delivering services to the most marginalised communities, it has blown up in their faces. I do feel sorry for the communications people in that municipality who will now be used as the sacrificial lambs and blamed for the whole PR disaster this sports stadium has become.
When you intend to host an event of this nature in the very charged-up atmosphere of elections. you must think long and hard about how you go about doing it. What I saw when I arrived at the field on Monday around 1.15pm was the exact antithesis of what needs to be done when hosting such an event.
Anyway, that is not my business. During the event no one mentioned that the cost of the project they were handing over was a whopping R15 million. I nearly fell off my chair a couple of hours later when I saw the Facebook post from the municipality. I know that the area the field is built on is particularly rocky underneath and that extensive earthworks were done to get it to the level needed, but I never thought the overall amount for what was done there would amount to R15 million.
I am sure the forensic audit or a release of the detailed cost breakdown would help explain it. I am not holding my breath, though. The story has now got legs and will probably trend for the next few weeks at least. We, as sports people who have been the most ignored section of society, have now been given a golden opportunity to have our voices heard. This particular municipality has been very callous when it comes to sport. Almost all the sporting facilities under it- have collapsed and are in a deep state of decay and neglect. They keep spending millions of tax payer’s money to erect them, rather than either leave them unfinished like at Ilinge or do half jobs like now at Lesseyton. They also erect them and them leave them to look after themselves and they end up being vandalised like Dumpy Adams, Mlungisi Stadium and Thobi Kula Indoor Sports Centre.
We thank the election fervour for the attention they are now getting because all these things would have been swept under the carpet and they would move on to another doomed project. How do you hand over such a major project without inviting any of the established sports bodies in the area? The municipality should go back and hold someone accountable for this whole mess and relook at their dismal attitude towards sport and sport facilities. We should be thankful for the furore and hope that things will now change for the better.