Malawi: Bullets, Nomads Say HRDC 'Offiside' On Stadium Projects

9 September 2019

Supporters for Mighty Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets have demanded that Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to abort their plans to lobby Parliament against allocating funds to the stadium projects.

The supporters addressing the journalists The fans chanting anti-Mtambo songs

The rights organisation wants legislature to block the funding of the projects included in the 2019/20 National Budget which Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha tabled in the National Assembly on Monday after President Peter Mutharika said he wants to fulfill the pledge he made during one of his campaign rallies for the May 21 election to build stadia for the two teams.

HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo said if Mutharika had indeed included funding allocation to the projects in the national budget, his organisation would lobby to have it rejected and instead channel the funding to the health and education sector.

But the supporters from the two teams at a press conference they convened at Kamuzu Stadium on Monday, said they expect HRDC to withdraw their intention and also to apologise within 72 hours or else they shall hold vigils at their offices in Lilongwe.

Led by Wanderers supporters chairman, Melvin Nkunika and Bullets director of supporters, Stone Mwamadi, they argue that HRDC is impinging on their right to own the good infrastructure that shall help the two teams develop the game.

"If Mtambo does not withdraw the statement he made and apologise unconditionally, we shall hold vigils at the HRDC office's until he relents," Nkunika said.

"HRDC should leave us alone and concentrate on their political agenda. They should not drag us into politics because football is for the good of the nation and it's non-partisan

"Our teams have been in existence since the 1960s. We contribute players that make the national team but we have nothing to show in terms of infrastructure. HRDC should not use us to gain political mileage. We, therefore, demand that they should not interfere with Parliament's proceedings otherwise if they go ahead we shall react badly."

The supporters gave an example of Silver and Civo stadia as belonging to Silver Strikers and Civil Sporting but they were built by the same government.

"What HRDC is doing is offside. They should not take us for granted," chipped in Mwamadi.

"Teams in Malawi also contribute tax for playing football. From the gate collections, the government claims 25 percent of the earnings.

"So the government can consider to build us stadia because at the end of the day the same football shall pay back through the tax we are charged at each and every game."

Other speakers included the two teams supporters general secretaries Mavuto Chibambo for Bullets and Samuel Mponda for Wanderers, vice chairperson Bruno Gama for Bullets and Diness Chitsulo Wanderers, who all sent a stark warning to HRDC that what they have started is a fight they cannot win.

They said they feel insulted to with HRDC's statement that branded the stadia projects as "illogical, lack of prioritisation and an outright abuse of public funds".

"HRDC should not declare that the two teams are commercial entities because nobody owns the two teams, they belong to the public which pays tax," Gama said.

"In the same vein we are also asking our supporters across the country to boycott the demonstrations that are being organised by HRDC."

Mtambo said if Mutharika insists on the projects then he should use his personal funds and not taxpayers money.

Mtambo said it is "illogical" for the President and government to fund luxuries for commercial entities when pupils are still learning under trees without adequeate learning and teaching materials in many schools in the country.

But Mutharika maintains that this is one way of developing football in the country, saying the stadiums will always be used and enjoyed by the public.

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