Let the WC 'gees' continue to reign

2010-07-12 00:00

SO the day has come. The World Cup is leaving South Africa and it won’t be coming back for a very long time.

South Africa has excelled in its role as host and the carnival atmosphere that has been created around the country during the tournament will surely mean that foreign tourists will go home with fond memories of their stay in Mzansi.

If nothing else, it all paints a very bright future for our tourism industry.

I attended the Durban fan park for the first semi-final on Tuesday, arriving hours before kickoff. The colleague I was with suggested that we walk around Durban while we waited for the park to fill up. I hesitantly obliged, what with all my existing prejudices about walking the streets after dark still firmly intact.

The truth is that I have never felt safer. Everywhere I looked, there were police officers patrolling the streets and driving by in vans. Even those officers who were seated at a take-away food outlet diving into a box of spicy chicken wings completely oblivious to anything happening outside of their poultry-fuelled love affair, put me at ease. The mere fact that they were there assured me that anybody looking to reinforce my prejudices would think twice before doing so.

I spoke to one of the officers who was patrolling the streets. After routine introductions, I congratulated him on the work that had been done to ensure that so many police officers were placed on the street, and, rather selfishly, congratulated him on making my colleague and I feel safe.

I asked him if, after the World Cup had ended, we would still be able to roam the cities with such freedom.

“Of course,” was his response. Wow! The World Cup really has benefited South Africa in a way that will affect all of us.

“So are we still going to have this many police officers on the streets after the World Cup?” I asked.

“No, this is just for the World Cup,” he said.

“Where will you be then?” I asked, fearing the worst.

“Back at the station,” he said.

And then I got to thinking. What kind of service delivery will we be able to expect once this First World showpiece has left our Third World shores?

Are these men on the streets to protect foreigners or their own folk?

What about the buses taking people, mostly foreign, to and from their hotels? The streets that night were reminiscent of London, where buses are a constant feature of the nightlife. Will they still be operating in a month, or two or three?

What about Julius Malema? We haven’t heard a peep out of him since the tournament began and, quite frankly, we all seem to have gotten on just fine without feeling the need to rage at somebody. Will he stay out of the limelight or will he once again be headlining South African news when we don’t have a World Cup to talk about?

What we have seen in our country over the past month is nothing short of incredible. I just can’t help but ask: “If we can do it for the rest of the world when everybody is watching, why can’t we do it for ourselves when we need it most?”

Something amazing has happened here. The country is united like never before. And if the government and the powers that be devote as much time, money and commitment to their own people as they did to ensuring that the World Cup was a success in international eyes, then we can all look forward with new-found optimism.

And if they don’t, then we all have the right to feel betrayed.

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