How a viva nation made for a vuvuzela tournament

2010-06-12 12:27

In all the doom and gloom reporting about South Africa’s ability to

host a successful World Cup, the New York Times has captured the ­national

spirit in ways we don’t ­often see ourselves.

Writer Celia Dugger calls ours a “noisy, fractious, vibrant


She adds that “poking a finger in the eye of authority is part of

the national DNA.”

The article makes a strikingly different analysis of South

Africa’s World Cup. She points out that the noisy, fractious citizens of our

country have insisted on making it our own by complaining about the Chinese

manufacturing of the mascot Zakumi, lobbying against the absence of local talent

from the opening ceremony and pushing against a sophisticated ticketing system

that meant sales were tortoise slow in the initial stages.

So Hugh Masekela blew up a storm on stage and Freshlyground gained

an even greater international reputation after joining Shakira in singing the

soccer anthem.

By complaining loudly, the ticketing system was changed and the

sold-out sign has been put up on most games.

We don’t often enough appreciate our tjatjarag nature as a national

asset, but it is and the World Cup shows us how it is often put to good ends

that we mistakenly mask as failure and as a problem.

Lately, two leading editors have written about how we as South

Africans lack self-esteem and respect.

Writing in the Sunday Independent last week, Mathatha Tsedu wrote

that black South Africans did not sufficiently act with the agency of a

liberated people in using their power to harness social change.

Last month,

Business Day’s editor Peter Bruce cogently argued that a lack of self-esteem

lies at the heart of many ills in society: an indecisive president, political

debate that can be more destructive than constructive, a fear of bold decisions

across our society.

But as the Gautrain took to the tracks this week, as the country

transformed itself from a rainbow nation into a Bafana Bafana-supporting yellow

nation, as the world raved about the beautiful stadiums that will host the

beautiful game, the lesson we should take home is a sense of our ability, not of

our disability.

If we can use this next month to set aside the assault on

self-esteem that was at the centre of the apartheid experiment and ­declare it

dead, then the billions will be well spent. And if we win some soccer, that will

be great too.

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