Beautiful game or a cruel trick?

2010-06-26 13:01

South Africa is

renowned for several things including a strong economy with the most unequal

distribution of wealth in the world, loud soccer matches, pap and steak, and a

vibrant ­history of political and social resistance.

One of its other claims to

fame is the ability to host world-class events with finesse.

All of this has

been conflated against the ­backdrop of the flag-waving bonanza that is the 2010

Fifa World Cup.

When it was announced that South ­Africa would host the event,

justifications of the cost were made on the basis that it would grow the

economy, provide ­opportunities for small businesses, act as a buffer against

the economic ­meltdown, contribute to ­urban ­regeneration programmes and bring

smaller cities closer to the centre of ­economic and social activity.

But there are many concerns.

One is that unions have been

instructed not to strike for the duration of the World Cup.

Another is the

relative remoteness and prohibitive cost of the matches for most people.


another is the blind eye turned on human trafficking and the victimisation of

sex workers leading up to the event.

Soccer is historically a sport of the black working class majority

in South Africa and they have the greatest need of any benefits derived from

this event.

Total ­unemployment stands at more than 40%, with nearly 70% of that

being youth.

The estimated R800 billion allocated ­to infrastructure development

for stadiums, roads and airports is several times greater than expenditure at

the past two World Cup events.

Return on investment for ­Korea/Japan (2002) and

Germany (2006) has been negligible and the current ­economic climate is much

less favourable for South Africa.

World Cup expenditure has displaced ­investment in projects with

more intrinsic and long-term priorities such as health and education.

It is

estimated that World ­Cup-related infrastructure spending is equivalent to 10

years of housing ­investment.

Today, a mere 7% of South African schools have

functioning libraries.

But the world football governing body, Fifa, will be laughing all

the way to the bank – raking in an expected €1.2 billion (about R12 billion) in

media rights alone.

Now locals want ­answers from ­government, which typically pleads

­poverty when it comes to basic service ­delivery but al­located R30 billion to

build stadiums and a further R757 billion for ­infrastructure


Without an adequate or sincere ­programme to handle the crisis of

­homelessness, local governments have ­used “quick fixes” to conceal “unwanted”

­people who could spoil the view for ­tourists.

Cities are looking cleaner at

the cost of placing the urban displaced and ­homeless in remote, de facto

­concentration camps.

Street traders have been marginalised on the most visible and

lucrative routes to stadiums and have typically been ­harassed through brutal

evictions and confiscation of goods.

These traders are mainly poor women who

support many ­dependants and households.

It seems South Africa is being drowned in a torrent of ­patriotism

and our ­sensibilities numbed ­to the cruel ­realities surrounding us.

While the tiny elite and white capital ­benefit from World Cup

­contracts, the broader population is being asked to dumb down their

expectations under the ­banner of being patriotic.

Patriotism, as Samuel Johnson said, is the last refuge of


» Pheko is policy and advocacy director at The

Trade Collective.

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