Two ministers differ over proposed hotel project Two senior Cabinet ministers have given conflicting statements on the controversial $20 million (Sh24 billion) hotel project at the site of the historical Nyamagana Stadium in Mwanza. While Lands, Housing and Human Settlements minister John Magufuli told The Citizen yesterday that he had never consented to the stadium being used for purposes other than those it was intended for, his Regional Administration and Local Governments colleague, Mr Mizengo Pinda, said he had no objection to the decision to build a five-star hotel and shopping mall at the site. Said Mr Magufuli: "I haven't done anything...just ask Mwanza City Council to give you more details on what is happening there. "Don't force me to say something I don't like to say...I don't like to discuss the issue." In September last year, Mr Magufuli blocked the Mwanza City Council from selling the stadium to a local investor, describing the plan as ill-conceived, and aimed at grabbing public land under the guise of investment. He said the stadium would be demolished only over his dead body. Mr Magufuli said he would rather have the stadium serve as a museum, training ground for members of the People's Militia (mgambo) or business site for small-scale traders. He reminded Mwanza City authorities that the stadium was a historical site where many people were killed during the colonial era. Bodies recovered from the sunken MV Bukoba were also taken to the stadium for identification in 1995. About 1,000 people died in the tragedy. Contacted for comment, Mr Pinda said, "Those who opposing the development of Nyamagana have no concrete grounds for doing so. The football stadium can be relocated anywhere in Mwanza City. "I understand the concerns of Mr Magufuli, but I think Mwanza City Council is right...there isn't any wrongdoing here," he told The Citizen by telephone yesterday. He said if the tendering procedure was followed as required by law, then Mwanza City Council should proceed with their plan to find a strategic investor who would build a five-star hotel and shopping mall on the two-acre plot. Mr Pinda said the stadium was at the heart of Mwanza's central business district, adding that it was time its use changed to speed up development in the lakeside town. Mwanza City Council last week gave the go-ahead for the construction of a multibillion-shilling hotel amid stiff opposition from the public. The Citizen has established that city authorities have begun demolishing the stadium amid tight security after the project drew mixed reaction. Mwanza City director Wilson Kabwe said the council was demolishing dilapidated parts of the stadium to avert accidents that could harm people who had flouted the council's ban on conducting business and other activities at the venue. But reliable sources within the council said the stadium was being demolished to pave the way for a successful bidder. "The Government has suddenly changed its mind and has decided that a private developer take over the stadium," one of the sources said on condition of anonymity. The majority of councillors said during their last meeting?that pupils and students from seven learning institutions in the centre of Mwanza would be severely affected by the decision to change the purpose of the stadium, let alone to privatise it. But Mayor Leonard Bihondo allayed the councillors' fears, saying the stadium could not be offered to a private investor in the near future because a lot of groundwork was yet to be done. The groundwork in question included surveying of the stadium and provision of a title deed, said Mr Bihondo. ? Attempts to offer the stadium to private investors have failed several times following an outcry by various stakeholders, who maintain that he stadium should never be developed for purposes other than sports and recreational activities. Most MPs in Mwanza Region are also opposed to plans to demolish the stadium and build a five-star hotel. However, some legislators have asked the regional consultative committee to consider changing the use of the stadium despite Mr Magufuli's opposition. Sumve MP Richard Ndassa said Mr Magufuli was misguided as the RCC meeting had the final say on the fate of the stadium. The stadium should not continue to be used solely for sports while Mwanza Region was in dire need of hotels, he said. "Some Great Lakes Region conferences were supposed to be held here, but Mwanza could not host the meetings owing to lack of hotels. It is a shame for any Tanzanian to suggest that such conferences be held in the city," Mr Ndassa said. But Mr Ndassa's remarks were strongly opposed by Nyamagana District Commissioner Peter Madaha. "Hotels do not necessarily have to be situated in city centres. We have to think of allocating plots for big hotels in areas surrounding the city, including Misungwi," he said. Col Madaha said during the RCC meeting held before the end of last year that the minister's consent was inevitable in the city's plans to develop land because he was the one who issued building permits. Ukerewe MP Gertrude Mongella also strongly opposed the idea of turning Nyamagana Stadium into a five-star hotel, saying that a reliable investor should be given suitable land along the Lake Victoria shores to build a posh hotel. "Stadium development and attraction of investors to fast-track development of the city are two separate things," she said. With hardly two acres of space, Nyamagana could not accommodate good investment ideas, Ms Mongella said. The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) was the first to apply for an opportunity to develop the stadium earlier this year, but lost out to a businessman of Indian decent. In August, last year, Information, Culture and Deputy Sports minister Joel Bendera wrote a strongly worded letter to Mwanza Regional Commissioner James Msekela, asking him to ensure that no project was allowed at Nyamagana Stadium as proposed by the city council. The letter dated August 22, read in part: "Any plans to change the original use of the stadium should be revoked immediately because the stadium is one of the most important historical symbols of Mwanza City and the nation as well." The Mwanza City Council had earlier proposed that a multibillion-shilling hotel and recreational centre be built at the Nyamagana Stadium site in a joint venture in which the Government and a strategic investor were to own 55 and 45 per cent shares, respectively.