Durban - Claims that a schoolboy’s concept of the now famous Moses Mabhida Stadium was used by the developers without crediting him have been roundly dismissed by two prominent figures in the arena’s creation.
Deputy Minister Bheki Cele and former city manager Michael Sutcliffe have rejected arguments by the boy’s family, and the former mayor of eThekwini, Obed Mlaba, that it was Sibusiso Nene’s idea when he was in Grade 11.
In August 2004, Nene crafted a wire model of a stadium, winning the KwaZulu-Natal leg of an Eskom Expo for Young Scientists for designing the best 2010 soccer World Cup stadium.
“He is the brains behind it. I want to make it public that he needs to be honoured,” Mlaba told the Sunday Tribune.
But Cele, at the time the chairman of the ANC in eThekwini, and Sutcliffe said this claim was “most unfortunate, and simply not true”.
In a letter to newspapers they sketched the background and build-up of the project, seeking to refute Mlaba’s argument that it was Sibusiso’s idea and that he needed to be honoured for it.
Nene’s father, Sipho Nene of Hammarsdale, also accused the creators in the Sunday Tribune: “They took my son’s idea and sidelined him afterwards. My son was never credited for his idea, and he never received any payment.”
But Cele and Sutcliffe said the design was inspired by the South African flag where the central arch, together with compression rings, held up the roof.
“Its other features included its compliance with both the specifications of Fifa and the IOC, and that it is not a complete bowl, allowing for natural air flow and a panoramic view of the cityscape from within the stadium,” they said.
“These, and many other features show that there is simply no similarity between S’bu Nene’s model and that of Moses Mabhida Stadium.”
They argued also that the project leader of the Ibhola Lethu Consortium, which produced the winning proposal, had no knowledge of Sibusiso’s involvement.
“We would love to know who it was that he actually met with and what he was told,” Cele and Sutcliffe said. They were addressing claims by Mlaba and Nene’s father of further meetings the boy had had with metro officials.
Sipho Nene told the Tribune: “After Sibusiso approached the mayor, he was called to do presentations with city engineers and they liked his project.
“People from the municipality used to take him from home and bring him back later because they were still using him.
“When they started building the stadium, they started ignoring him.”
Sibusiso Nene died in January 2009. Cele and Sutcliffe said they were sad to hear this. “He was a rare talent,” they said.
“It is a pity that the creative talent of S’bu Nene is not today assisting us as we re-shape our buildings and cities.”