LAID TO RUST
Mamelodi’s doomed HM Pitje Stadium fills with rubbish as Gauteng budget woes dash rebuilding hopes
Locals now use the ill-fated HM Pitje Stadium in Mamelodi, Tshwane, to dump rubbish. And the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation tells Daily Maverick there is currently no budget to rebuild it.
A visit by Daily Maverick this week revealed that the envisaged world-class stadium is now an open field that residents have turned into a dumping site.
This is after it was finally razed earlier this year after prolonged delays by the Gauteng government’s Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR) and the province’s Department of Infrastructure Development (DID).
Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng departments at odds over demolition costs of Mamelodi’s HM Pitje stadium that never was
The only sign that shows that the site used to be a stadium – albeit one riddled with construction defects – is a gigantic cement sculpture by the late Mamelodi artist Reuben Mokwena, which stands against the perimeter wall.
The statue – which depicts a one-armed amputee holding a rhino horn and welcoming fans to the stadium – is surrounded by rubbish at its base.
The hollow space previously occupied by the stadium has been cordoned off with a perimeter cement wall, but there is no gate and the entrance is wide open, making it easy for residents to get in and dump rubbish.
According to an email sent to Daily Maverick by SACR official Phathutshedzo Dagada on 12 July, the cost of demolishing the stadium earlier this year was R19.63-million and the contract to do it was awarded to Maziya General Services.
“There are engagements with stakeholders to come up with a funding model for the redevelopment of the stadium. Presently there is no budget for redevelopment of the stadium,” explained Dagada in email, having been asked whether the stadium would be rebuilt in the near future.
The City of Tshwane Municipality, which would have been the beneficiary of the stadium had it been completed successfully, sent the following email to Daily Maverick last week via spokesperson Lindela Mashigo: “The delayed reconstruction of HM Pitje is due to lack of funding for the project. The City has engaged various government departments for funding with no success. It is for this reason that the City is processing a report to Council for consideration and approval of a public participation process to engage interested public/private partnerships to assist the City with funding for the restoration of the stadium. The report is expected to serve at Council before the end of this year.”
The aborted reconstruction of HM Pitje into a world-class venue was the project of the Gauteng government, but now the stadium is back under the curatorship of the City of Tshwane, after the provincial government evidently failed in its mandate to modernise the venue.
“We are obviously dismayed by the blatant disregard for township-focused development displayed by the Gauteng provincial government. The people of Mamelodi have been raising the issue of HM Pitje for years now without any solid response from the provincial government,” the ANC’s Tshwane regional secretary, George Matjila, told Daily Maverick.
The DA’s Gauteng spokesperson for sport, arts, culture and recreation, Kingsol Chabalala, says he is deeply concerned that Mamelodi and Tshwane residents have been left with an empty site instead of a world-class venue.
He said in a WhatsApp message: “This is a painful reminder of the squandered hundreds of millions of rand. This is also a lost opportunity for the community to enjoy a state-of-the-art sporting facility. The ANC-led government has shown through the HM Pitje debacle why they can’t be trusted with the governance of Gauteng. What is also deeply concerning is the fact that no action has been taken against construction companies that failed to deliver on the HM Pitje project.
When Daily Maverick broke this story in May 2022, the Gauteng DID indicated that charges were still being formulated against the Mosoma and Khumbula construction companies, which had been contracted to build the stadium as a joint venture. Their shoddy workmanship necessitated the demolition of the newly built stadium.
Read more on Daily Maverick: Tshwane’s stadium that never was: R140m to build, R84m to demolish
Last week, Daily Maverick sent a query to the SACR about whether any action has been taken against the two companies for shoddy workmanship. It had not yet responded by the time of publication.
The stadium was never used after it was rebuilt for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, owing to evident construction defects that led to it being declared not fit for purpose by stakeholders including national professional soccer body, the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Daily Maverick reported in May last year that the stadium, which had been built for R140-million, would cost R84-million to demolish.
But this figure was disputed by Gauteng sport MEC Mbali Hlpohe, who in a right-to-reply article in Daily Maverick on 20 May 2022, insisted that the demolition would cost R24-million.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng won’t spend R84m on stadium demolition.
However, the demolition cost was apparently high in any case, and was evidently reduced after a public outcry.
Evidence of this apparent cost reduction lies in a statement by Hlophe’s spokesperson, Nkosana Mtolo, published in Daily Maverick, in which reveals that the Gauteng sports department had asked the Department of Infrastructure Development to reduce the demolition costs because they were obviously too high.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng departments at odds over demolition costs of Mamelodi’s HM Pitje Stadium that never was.
In July 2023, sports department official Phathutshedzo Dagada revealed to Daily Maverick in an email that the cost of demolishing HM Pitje was officially about R19-million.
Mamelodi residents, meanwhile, are left without a stadium.
One of them, Aaron Magopa, said: “When taking into account that R140-million that was used to construct the stadium, plus the R19-million used to demolish it, it means close to R160-million was used for a project that has now ended up as a dumping site.
“Whoever is responsible for the mess that HM Pitje is today should have just left the stadium alone the way the apartheid government had built it. Though it was not of high class, at least it was working and beneficial to the community of Mamelodi.”
History of HM Pitje Stadium
The stadium was originally built as a small soccer and athletics venue for the people of Mamelodi in the 1960s during the apartheid era.
It had a soccer pitch, a dusty athletics track, two dressing rooms, one grandstand of about 30m wide, a fence around the pitch and a perimeter wall with strong gates that could be locked. Spectators who couldn’t book a grandstand seat were compelled to watch while standing on the gravel surrounding the pitch.
Professional soccer teams including current PSL champions Mamelodi Sundowns and the now defunct Mamelodi United used the venue as their homeground.
In 2009, the stadium was demolished but the subsequent rebuilding work by Mosoma and Khumbula construction companies turned out to be unacceptable.
The new grandstand was built far from the pitch, making it impossible for fans to see the action. Another defect was that spectators on the western stands would not be able to see the entire goalposts on the northern side of the pitch. Also, the material used to build the main grandstand was not strong enough to hold large crowds of soccer fans.
The stadium was abandoned by the Gauteng sports department and vandalised sporadically from 2011 until early 2023, when the department finally managed to demolish it completely, with no budget to rebuild it.
Former Banyana Banyana coach Gregory Mashilo, who used to play for Mamelodi United at the stadium in his heyday in the 1980s, lamented the fact that the demise of the stadium is an eradication of the legacy that was created by him and his teammates over the years.
“We need to help the Gauteng government to reconstruct the stadium for the sake of the community of Mamelodi. The upcoming generations must know about the soccer matches that took place at the stadium. The stadium is part of Mamelodi’s heritage,” he said.
Former Banyana Banyana striker Khabo Zitha said: “It’s very sad that HM Pitje is no more. As a Mamelodi-born player, I played many games at the venue and it was always wonderful to be watched by hometown fans. At the moment Mamelodi soccer lovers who want to watch Mamelodi Sundowns’ games have to travel long distances to other venues outside Mamelodi.” DM