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Madibeng Kgwete
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Focus on the football

19 January 2010, 11:25  - Madibeng Kgwete
Not surprisingly, many of the news reports on the historic World Cup taking place in South Africa this winter are not about the core business of the tournament, football.

The headlines are not as concerned about the beautiful game as they are about scaremongering, accompanied by stories of such alien inventions as "stab-proof" vests.

One wonders why because, even as we all admit that crime is a problem in South Africa, no reasonable person really expects the World Cup to be marred by throngs of knife-wielding gangs, ready to stab anyone they come across.

South Africa has hosted many international sporting events before, such as the Rugby World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations, the Cricket World Cup and, very recently, the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

All of these events went smoothly and largely incident-free not only because the police had good plans. We, the people - South Africans of all races, united in our diversity - are generally a welcoming lot, renowned worldwide for our generosity of spirit and our warmth.

We don't deny that there are criminals amongst us. In fact, we - and not the occasional travellers - understand this country better. We are too familiar with the agony caused by crime.

Whereas we are the ones mostly affected, we also know (and statistics can prove it) that most criminals are known to their victims.

We're talking here of relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues and business partners, for example, committing gruesome crimes amongst each other.

And, of course, there are those opportunistic ones who go for the vulnerable: the tourists, children, the elderly and the negligent. But here we're talking about security arrangements for an event that we've known for years that it is coming to South Africa.

The police know how many teams we expect, how many people per team, where these teams will be staying, their travel routes, etc. And, because you have to buy a ticket before coming here, the police will also know how many fans to expect from every corner of the globe.

We shouldn't confuse acts of criminality directed at ordinary people on an ongoing basis and acts of criminality aimed at people attending an event. An event is planned for in advance, and our police have a proud track record in this regard.

The underlying message by the scare-mongers is one of great insult to the hosts: South Africans and Africans in general. We're hungry, yes, but not for human flesh. We're poor; many amongst us are even sick, but not sick in our heads.

If entrepreneurs want to cash in on the World Cup, let them do so using the creativity of their minds instead of dehumanising and insulting us.

Wouldn't it be great if, once and for all, this World Cup becomes the platform through which the world can recognise Africans as equal human beings, capable of all that which man elsewhere is capable of, and as faulty as human beings everywhere else are faulty?

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