Sports Minister Ulemu Msungama has said he will engage Capital Oil Refining Industries (Cori) to continue bankrolling netball giants Kukoma Diamonds.
Msungama said it will be a blow to the netball fraternity and nation to lose Cori’s sponsorship, which was valued at about K15 million.
“I was asked to mediate so that Cori should continue supporting the team. I was waiting for full details before I formally engage Cori management on the matter. We certainly need this sponsorship; so, we will try to hear their (Cori) side and see how best we can reach a common understanding,” he said.
Msungama said Diamonds contribute significantly to netball development in the country as the side contributes players to the senior netball side.
“We, as government, want all sectors to improve. In this case, we need Diamonds to remain a competitive side to help our national team. It is for this reason that we feel we need to meet the sponsor. Of course, I contacted one of Cori’s directors and he was ready to grant us an audience,” he said.
Cori’s Sponsorship Coordinator Violet Kapolo said the company’s position on Diamonds remains the same.
“We are struggling due to VAT [Value Added Tax] on cooking oil. Once VAT is removed, we won’t hesitate but start sponsoring the side again,” she said.
Cori withdrew Diamonds’ sponsorship package towards the end of last year due to the introduction of Value Added Tax on refined cooking oil as the company cannot compete effectively on the market.
After Cori announced that it had withdrawn its sponsorship, the team refused to change the name insisting they will still be called ‘Kukoma Diamonds’ until further notice.
Recently, Diamonds Chairperson Lumbani Mtonyo said they sought government’s intervention to safeguard players’ welfare.
“We do not want to ruin the future of a lot of players who rely on netball. We have about 40 players who play for senior and reserve sides and, if we lose this sponsorship, we risk losing them,”
Diamonds, formerly known as Escom Sisters, have dominated the local netball scene since Cori started sponsoring the side in 2013.
The side has won every major trophy in the country including the Presidential Cup, disbanded GOtv Netball Champions League, defunct Airtel Money National netball trophy and Rainbow Paints Blantyre and Districts Netball League.
Currently, the side contributes a bulk of players to the national team and, in the current senior netball side, Diamonds have supplied skipper Caroline Mtukule- Ngwira, centre Bridget Kumwenda-Chalera and shooter Jessica Mazengera- Sanudi.