Tshwane’s stadium that never was: R140m to build, R84m to demolish
The Gauteng government spent almost R140-million building Tshwane’s HM Pitje Stadium. It was never used and will now cost R84-million to demolish, a figure the province disputes, but won’t explain.
DA spokesman for sports, arts, culture and recreation in Gauteng, Kingsol Chabalala, has criticised the earmarking of R84.9-million by the provincial government to demolish HM Pitje Stadium in Mamelodi, Tshwane.
He says the cost is exorbitant, considering that the stadium has been vandalised and reduced to its foundations.
The ill-fated stadium was rebuilt in 2011 but then left to become a white elephant as it failed to meet occupational health and safety regulations or the standards required by football associations.
The venue had been refurbished as a training ground for teams taking part in the 2010 Soccer World Cup. After the tournament, it was meant to be used by Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Mamelodi Sundowns for its home matches.
In the end, it was never used at all due to shoddy workmanship.
According to Chabalala, the only visible sign that the HM Pitje Stadium ever existed is a crumbling cement grandstand. Bricks, iron, wood, seats, lights and even the goalposts have been stolen.
“After learning of Gauteng Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation MEC Mbali Hlophe’s plans to demolish the already ruined stadium to the tune of R84,961,596.71, I decided to do an inspection of HM Pitje Stadium in March  and discovered that the amount mentioned by the MEC is disproportionate to the actual demolition job that needs to be done there,” said Chabalala.
“Bear in mind that the R84.9-million in question here is not even part of rebuilding the stadium, but a budget to only demolish a structure that is already on its knees,” he said.
Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (GDID) spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu claimed that the estimated cost of the demolition project was only R26.8-million and not R84.9-million, as alleged by Chabalala.
Documents in Daily Maverick’s possession, however, indicate that MEC Hlophe informed Parliament on 22 June 2021 that an estimated R84.9-million would be spent on demolishing the HM Pitje Stadium.
When asked to explain the R26.8-million estimate, Gambu referred the matter to the Gauteng department of sports, arts, culture and recreation.
Tumelo Taunyane, an official at the sports department, referred us back to Gambu, saying the infrastructure department was best suited to respond.
Daily Maverick established that in 2019, construction company Maziya Group won the tender to demolish HM Pitje. We contacted the company and someone by the name of Yvonne said via email that she was not allowed to speak to the media, and referred Daily Maverick to the infrastructure department.
The DA’s Chabalala said: “Even if it is R26-million, that is a lot of money to demolish an already decaying cement-built structure. I am sad because part of the money that is going to be used for the demolition of the cement structure at the stadium will be diverted from a fund meant to improve libraries in Gauteng.
“This is an indication of the fact that the MEC doesn’t prioritise the culture of reading. She also doesn’t care about the welfare of athletes and artists, who are languishing in squalor while money that is meant to uplift their livelihoods is going to be spent erroneously.”
The Gauteng government demolished the old HM Pitje Stadium in 2009, with promises that the new venue would be ready for use as a training ground by some of the teams taking part in the Soccer World Cup.
PSL barred teams from using the venue
But come 2010, the stadium had not been built and it was never used by any teams participating in the World Cup. It was eventually completed in 2011.
The PSL barred affiliated teams, including Sundowns, from using the venue. It said the stadium did not meet the requirements for staging professional soccer matches and would also present challenges if subjected to occupational health and safety standards.
The Gauteng government did its own investigations in 2011 and found that shoddy workmanship rendered the stadium unusable by both players and spectators.
One of the defects was that the grandstand was not strong enough for the weight of spectators. Also, some of the stands were erected too far away, meaning spectators wouldn’t have a clear view of what was happening on the pitch.
The stadium was abandoned without ever being used.
People began stripping materials for scrap and the stadium turned into a hangout for gangs and drug users.
Phase One of the rebuilding of HM Pitje Stadium cost the Gauteng government R22.7-million. Phase Two cost R117.1-million. That’s a total of almost R140-million for a venue that has never been used.
And now millions more will be spent on demolishing something that was never any use in the first place.
Construction companies Khumbula and Mosoma worked on the rebuilding project in a joint venture. There have been no consequences for their shoddy workmanship.
Gambu said the infrastructure department was still trying to formulate charges against the two companies – 11 years after the project was declared a dismal failure.
Tsaka Tse Pedi, spokesperson for a pressure group called #BringBackHMPitje, expressed sorrow over the lack of progress in rebuilding the stadium.
Ever since 2016, the group has been lobbying the national government, the provincial government and the City of Tshwane to restore the HM Pitje Stadium.
“The stadium would not only showcase the prowess of those talented in soccer, but would also create moneymaking opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and vendors,’’ Tse Pedi said.
Provincial officials have told Parliament that to rebuild the stadium with a capacity of 30,000 seats would cost an estimated R1.3-billion. DM