Government's move to revive sport industry through fiscal support for infrastructure development has been hailed across the board with new Minister of Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kazembe Kazembe, confident that it will give his ministry the impetus they needed for implementation of their development policies.
ZIFA and Norton legislator Temba Mliswa, who sits on the parliamentary portfolio on Education, Sport and Arts also joined in saluting Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa's bid to revive sport with a major thrust being put on construction of facilities and improvement on the existing ones.
In presenting his 2018 National Budget statement before parliament on Thursday, Chinamasa rolled out a grand plan, in which he said Government would in the next decade, ensure that each of the country's 10 provinces and the administrative districts have a multi-purpose sporting facility.
Chinamasa believes that such facilities will improve the livelihood of communities in those areas as well create employment. That move to commit Government support for infrastructure development will also enhance the competitiveness of Zimbabwean athletes on the global stage and provide the country with an opportunity to bid to host high profile international competitions.
The finance Minister also said there would be a deliberate approach to modernise existing facilities such as the National Sports Stadium and install bucket seats at the giant facility.
Chinamasa also announced in his budget that the Government will, with effect from January 1, 2018 levy all the sport betting bookmakers five percent of gross takings following the realisation that the sport betting industry in the country has rapidly grown as a recreational activity, generating in excess of $30 million per annum. The money would then be used to mobilise resources to upgrade community recreational centres throughout the country.
"With respect to sport, Mr Speaker Sir, Government, through the 2018 budget will begin to lay a firm foundation to establish a vibrant sport industry that will provide livelihoods and employment to many of our young people. Therefore the 2018 budget will set aside resources for the establishment and development of sporting facilities and infrastructure, ensuring that over a period of 10 years, each province and administrative district will have a multi-purpose sporting facility.
"It is also critical Mr Speaker Sir that the 2018 budget prioritises modernisation of existing national stadia, to attain international standards such as the introduction of buckets seats. This will ensure that Zimbabwe meets regional and international standards and these are prerequisites in hosting sporting events at such levels," Chinamasa said.
Kazembe welcomed the consideration made by his Cabinet colleague and said Chinamasa's budget statement had left his Ministry very excited.
"As a Ministry we are very excited by the direction Government has taken . . . the vote has been increased and Government has put sport high among its list of top priorities which clearly shows the commitment it has shown towards Sport, Arts and Culture. And if we are to go anywhere in improving sport, facilities are the starting point," Kazembe said.
Kazembe bemoaned the poor state of most sporting and recreational facilities across the country and said the move by Government to improve them was timely.
"If you look at infrastructure around the country it is dilapidated yet we used to have country clubs and many good facilities be it tennis courts, basketball courts, rugby ground or swimming pools. By having facilities resuscitated that is the starting point because it is in line with Government's policy to develop sport at grassroots".
Kazembe noted that sport had the capacity of creating employment not only fort athletes and coaches, but various downstream industries including those in kit manufacturing, retail and the construction.
"Over and above creating employment, sport is a way of ensuring a healthy lifestyle and it is a revenue generating industry. There are so many downstream benefits in sport which can never be overemphasised. One of the objectives in our national policy is decentralisation and small as the budget cake be we applaud the direction taken and we will ensure that those efforts are not in vain," Kazembe said.
A former Dynamos secretary-general who was credited with bringing a professional touch to the conduct of business at the Harare giants, Kazembe said he would demand transparency in the way funds allocated to his Ministry from the national fiscas are used.
"One of the way to ensure the Government efforts are not in vain is through transparency and zero tolerance to corruption," said Kazembe.
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa also issued a statement saluting the Government initiative on infrastructure development as enunciated in the budget statement.
Chiyangwa said; "It is refreshing and encouraging for the Finance and Economic Planning Minister to mention the revival of sport as instrumental in aiding the new dispensation's economic recovery thrust.
"I am glad that the new leadership shares my dream of revolutionising the sport industry so that it actively contributes towards the gross domestic product. In football, we are ready to work with the Government towards the construction of state-of-the-art facilities that are crucial in our quest to host major tournaments," Chiyangwa said.
Mliswa, a former fitness guru, who worked in the development of various disciplines such as boxing, cricket, rugby and football and briefly chaired Dynamos said it was critical that local athletes be exposed to top notch facilities before they embark on international competitions.
"I think it is great that sport infrastructure is being given priority by Government. You need to be exposed to the state-of-the-art infrastructure in order for us to be in sync with the global community. You cannot have our athletes continuing to have sprint events on grass yet when they go out there they have to compete on tartan tracks.
"I am happy too that infrastructure construction is to be decentralised and when I compare this budget with the previous ones, you can see that there was not much support for sport in the past.
"But you have to realise that sport is a multi-billion dollar industry and I can tell you that Zimbabwe has a lot of people with expertise in sport, but who cannot execute that expertise due to lack of infrastructure. Now with facilities going to be upgraded that expertise can be utilised and with this new thrust more employment will be created," Mliswa said.