No stopping AUSC Games Despite poor infrastructure






MASERU – The upcoming African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games will continue despite complaints over substandard infrastructure from regional organisers and participating countries.

The youth regional competition is scheduled for December 3 to 12 in the capital, Maseru.

Current Public Eye inquiries have unearthed that the AUSC Region 5 Games Ministers’ Troika had recently expressed concern about the slow progress in infrastructure rehabilitation for the tournament, going further to warn of the risk of failure to complete the projects in time for commencement of the Games.

The meeting, held two weeks ago in Mohale’s Hoek, was convened by sports ministers from three countries, namely: Lesotho’s Likeleli Tampane, Ulemu Msungama from Malawi and Tumiso Rakgare from Botswana.

Hard on the heels of these scathing remarks from the Ministers’ Troika, visiting Region 5 Games’ chef de missions have also expressed dissatisfaction over Lesotho’s preparedness to host the Games.

The region chef de missions arrived in Maseru last week for a tour and assessment of the Games’ playing facilities and accommodation.

“We have visited two facilities which are part of the Games’ village, and I am satisfied with the two…I think they are okay,” said Zambia’s Chef de Mission, Mable Beene Nedziwe, in an interview with Public Eye during the tour.

But Nedziwe continued: “In terms of the Games venues, I cannot say anything because I haven’t seen any of them. We would have been comfortable to declare that the games will be held successfully if we had visited the venues.”

Zimbabwe General Team Manager, Moreways Changa, was also disappointed “since we have not been taken to see even one venue at which our teams will be playing.”

“The facilities that we have visited are for accommodation. We have not seen the competition venues, which is critical,” said Changa.

In terms of general outlook and hospitality, Changa said the accommodation was in good condition. “But the Lesotho College of Education (LCE) needs a few refurbishments before the start of the Games,” he observed.

The LCE is one of the residents earmarked to accommodate visiting athletes during the Games. This state of affairs was confirmed to Public Eye by the Chief Information Officer at the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Maqalika Matsepe.

He conceded that indeed there has been great discomfort on the part of the Region 5 Organising Committee (ROC)’s officials over the readiness of infrastructure for the Games, as well as dissatisfaction from participating countries on the same matter.

“We cannot really say the ROC officials are satisfied because, to be honest, they have expressed their concern over the infrastructure,” said Matsepe in an interview with Public Eye this week.

“But to ensure that the Games continue as scheduled, they have given us the green light to proceed and use the same substandard infrastructure since these are youth games,” Matsepe revealed.

A Public Eye news team on Tuesday this week visited the Ha Rapokolana High Altitude Training and Recreation Centre to inspect the condition of the facility – which the visiting chef de missions have not as yet viewed.

The Rapokolana Centre is going to host the AUSC Region 5 Youth Games’ swimming competitions. This is despite revelation to this publication by sources close the Games’ preparations some weeks ago that Rapokolana Centre’s swimming pool will need to be adjusted ahead of the AUSC games in order to meet international requirements.

Although Matsepe could not outrightly dismiss entirely this assertion that the pool is below international standards, he said “the information the ministry received is that the pool is of an Olympic size.”

“Again, these are youth games and it doesn’t really matter that much, the pool can be substandard and there won’t be a problem. What I know is that the pool has been deemed of international standard…and that’s it,” he continued.


Road to the centre, utilities   

The Ha Rapokolana centre is one of the various substructures which need to be worked on before the Games and the road leading to the centre, which has been neglected for years, is equally of great significance.

Public Eye’s news team can report that work to revamp the bumpy, uneven road has commenced, though progressing at a snail’s pace according to residents the team spoke to.

But Matsepe has given assurance that, as per instructions to the contractor assigned the project, the road would have been upgraded to a better gravel road before December.  There are concerns though; some of the residents of Ha Rapokolana have indicated that this would not be the first face-lift given to the road. It has been levelled with gravel before, but was washed away by the rain.

“We don’t need a gravel road here. We need a tarred road,” said one of the residents. “It is so useless for them to construct a gravel road after they have seen a similar restoration done and washed away by the rain.” Matsepe was, however, surprised to learn from the Public Eye news team that work on the road has already begun.

He said: “This is because in the beginning he (the contractor) said he would delay starting the job to avoid its being washed away by the rain.” Matsepe added, “…maybe he is just working on it now so that he would later level it with gravel.”

Electricity and water are also a problem at the centre, according to sources. “The electricity is only available at other areas of the centre and not in the swimming pool area and its surroundings,” said one source.

“Another problem is currently with water for the swimming pool since the machine that is supposed to pump water into the pool is broken.”

Matsepe said, however, that water will not be a problem at all. He said, “the water is not a problem. We will draw it from the river around the centre.”

“There is already a water pump station around and we will only have to fix the pump machine which had, unfortunately, been vandalised by the same villagers of Ha Rapokolana.”

Matsepe also said as far as he knew, there’s an electricity connection supplying the entire centre. He revealed, at the same time, that his ministry owed the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) M2 million for unpaid electricity, suggesting also that the debt has long been settled.


Football games

There has also been confusion over which venues will be used for football matches during the regional tournament, with the suspension of Setsoto Stadium by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), bringing into the picture the recently refurbished Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena.

Concern was raised over numerous public utterances by the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) that the Bambatha Tšita playing grounds will not be availed for the AUSC games.

LeFA president, Advocate Salemane Phafane, is on record announcing that the grounds were off-limits because the contractor who had been engaged for refurbishing the grounds will still be onsite in December by the time the Games begin. He said a lot of work remained to be completed at the area despite completion of works at the grounds.

As recently as Wednesday this week, one LeFA official confirmed to this Public Eye that the Bambatha Tšita grounds will be unavailable for the Games in December. Despite this statement Matsepe said on the same day that the Bambatha grounds were on the list of venues to be used for the AUSC Games.

He matter-of-factly said: “For football competitions, pitches to be used are Bambatha and Setsoto, while for practices teams will have access to the Lesotho Correctional Services and Roma grounds.” Matsepe further said Setsoto Stadium, whose running track the Public Eye news team can confirm is still being repaired, is earmarked to be the main venue for football matches.

“It is true that Setsoto was already banned (by CAF) but for these particular youth games, our stadium is perfect,” said Matsepe. He, however, said the playing surface of the stadium cannot be replaced before December.

“Because of the fact that we are already out of time, the turf could not be fixed at the same time as the track and, by the look of things, the turf will not have been replaced by December.” The turf, Matsepe said, was still playable and, therefore, it will not pose any problems in the upcoming regional youth competition.


Social responsibility

Meanwhile, the Ha Rapokalana residents hope to have a share of the pie from the AUSC games – with swimming competitions to be held in their area.

This is, however, despite indicating that they are tired of empty promises by ruling politicians. Residents at Ha Rapokolana have no electricity, running water, toilets, a high school, a clinic and access roads between their respective villages – while they also complain of poor road construction where roads exist.

“We are aware of the Games that are going to be hosted in our village and we are expecting a lot to be done; be it the construction of the road, electricity and for visitors to buy from ours shops to improve the lives of the Ha Rapokolana residents,” said one of the residents, Mokhele Montle, in an interview with Public Eye.  

Montle further said: “We could as well build thatched houses and decorate them with home-made products and stock more goods to sell, but the truth is that we have lost hope after the recent incident in which bikers who had come for an event here in our village failed to buy anything from us during the event.

“They had brought with them everything they needed from wherever they came from.”  Montle, who owns a café in the village, said that happened despite that the organisers of the event had asked them to buy enough stock to be able to supply the competitors, officials and spectators during the competition.

“People took loans to buy goods which were wasted because none of those things were bought as it seemed those people came with their own stuff.”

Montle also confirmed that the Ha Rapokolana centre is the only facility that has electricity in the village. He said the Ministry of Energy has kept on making empty promises of the installation of electricity in the whole village, especially now that the Games are going to be hosted there.

Some of the residents complained that their children and animals became trapped in heavy rains because there are no bridges and no access roads between their villages – a reality they said leads to regular loss of animal lives.

Some suggested that the visitors should not be accommodated in the centre but rather pay for use of their houses for accommodation.

One of them, ’Mapontšo Sekese, said another big challenge for them was medical attention.

“Nurses attend to us once a month, which is very difficult for us since people need medical attention every day,” Sekese said, “We humbly ask that a clinic be built in this village as well as a high school so that our children do not have to travel long distances or have to relocate for schooling.”

The secretary to the Ha Rapokolana’s chief, Mahloane Theko, on the other hand said they could actually make a lot of money from the visitors and tourists coming to their village by horse riding, accommodation and selling their sheep for braai during the competition.

For his part, Chief Mathebe Rapokolana said that they had been promised all of those things which the residents are complaining about but that none of these had materialised to date.

“We were hoping that something would actually happen by now, but there is still nothing,” said Chief Rapokolana.

He further said: “The residents are expecting to have a well-constructed tarred road, electricity installation as their village will be hosting the upcoming youth games.

“But the only thing we see is the gravel road that is being fixed because some of the local car owners previously complained of bad road construction.”

While the government is faced with these infrastructural challenges, there has also been lack of preparation on the part of athletes making up Team Lesotho.

Some associations have cited lack of funds, despite the fact that the approved initial budget for the Games was M280 million, which was later cut down to M252 million divided as follows: M22 million for the preparation and M230 million for the infrastructure.

Ha Rapokolana villagers say they have had enough of the empty promises always hurled at them by politicians and government ministries.

This village is home to a M55 million worth High Altitude Sports Training Centre which was initiated to develop and improve athletes in the country, and from abroad but has remained a white elephant that has not been operational since its construction in 2005.

Built to provide Lesotho’s elite athletes access to state-of-the-art training facilities, to be able to compete on world stage the facility is in a derelict condition because of neglect and subsequent vandalism.

Beds were stolen and a water pump was vandalised.

The facility has not been electrified, according to Public Eye inquiries, and the road is being fixed now, a month to African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games this December.

This high-altitude facility which could be the best training centre in Africa cost the government over M50 million and many observers remain shocked to see such a cutting-edge initiative neglected to a point of disrepair.

Ha Rapokolana is a rural village in Maseru and villagers complain that they do not have electricity, piped water, toilets, high school, a clinic, access roads between villages and has close to non-existent roads infrastructure.


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