A decade after buying BAT Ground in Blantyre, the Ministry of Youth and Culture is yet to legally take full ownership of the historic football venue, leaving it like a semi-desert.
Cigarette manufacturers, British America Tobacco (BAT) sold the property to the ministry at K35 million in August, 2006.
However, bureaucracy has seen the facility being neglected as no one can fully care for it in the absence of title deeds, which BAT still possesses.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Christopher Mbukwa, insisted that the venue is in the hands of Malawi National Council of Sports as a sports implementing arm for the ministry.
While asking for more time to consult on why it has taken a decade to transfer the property’s ownership, Mbukwa explained that council is currently working on developing the ground.
“We would not want to go into a matter that is being handled by our own implementing arm. We formulate policies and the council implements. So the matter is in safe hands,” he insisted.
The council’s executive secretary, George Jana, said he was working round the clock to get the paperwork for the facility, adding that the transfer would be completed after two weeks.
“It is important for the property’s papers to reflect government ownership. Otherwise, it would not make sense for us to be developing a facility we do not legally own,” Jana noted, adding that he requested the Lands and Surveys Department to provide the property’s map for design purposes.
Director of Sports in the ministry, Jameson Ndalama, said in October last year that part of the paperwork was handed over to Sports Council and what remained were the title deeds.
“We wrote the Sports Council advising them that they were now in control of the facility. However, the Sports Council had reservations because they wanted the title deeds indicating the transfer of ownership to government,” he said, adding that the paperwork was being processed with the help of the Ministry of Lands.
Southern Region Football Association uses the facility as its base, but general secretary, George Pagaja, said they were ready to vacate it should it become necessary to pave way for development.
A few years ago, government pumped in K50 million to renovate the ground, but poor workmanship left the facility in a shambles.
The ground remains the busiest soccer venue in Blantyre with matches and training sessions taking place there on a daily basis.
However, the pitch, the stands and the wall are all in a sorry state and screaming for urgent attention.