Mbombela’s death trap for locals

2011-06-04 16:36

Orlando Pirates are ­returning to the venue that crowned their best year since 1973, when the Tony Sanderson-coached team swept all before them.

They play Tottenham Hotspur at the Mbombela Stadium on ­July 19.

Ordinarily that would be an exciting affair for the Pirates faithful and for football fans in that area of our country. They do not always get big games and will be more starved in the coming season following the ­relegation of Mpumalanga Black Aces to the National First ­Division.

I am afraid, though, that if the level of disorganisation is the same as what we saw at the Nedbank Cup final, Mbombela is a death trap waiting to ­happen.

Last week authorities diverted cars and directed them to the various park and ride facilities. You would think that was the responsible thing to do.

But the parking was far from adequate and far from the stadium. Trying to catch a bus to the stadium was like an episode from the Amazing Race.

It was survival of the fittest and the fattest.

There was hardly any police or traffic control presence to ensure orderly queuing for the bus – a far cry from the scenes we saw during the World Cup, when the transport system ran like clockwork.

Mbombela government and football authorities did not ­create any system nor care to say how 45 000 excited fans would get into the buses.

There was chaos, especially from around an hour before kickoff.

Children were shoved and squeezed mercilessly by fans delicately balancing their beers in the one hand and pushing their way with the other.

To their credit, security ­personnel inside the stadium were courteous and helpful, pointing out where our tickets showed we were to be seated.

Unfortunately, leaving the ­stadium was an even greater nightmare. It should have been expected.

It was one thing shipping fans progressively throughout the day but to be faced with 45 000 fans, most of them delirious ­after their club had completed a cup final win to complete a ­historic treble, was a logistical nightmare.

Ultimately, it took more time to leave the stadium to get to the car park than it did to drive from Johannesburg to ­Mbombela.

After the chaos I saw last Saturday, that no one died or was seriously injured was enough to tempt the most devout atheist to reconsider his beliefs.

However, local authorities cannot continue tempting fate and hoping that their disorganisation will not have serious repercussions.

People are going to die if Mbombela and whoever else was responsible continue doing things the same way.

It is not in my vocabulary to say that I do not look forward to watching an Orlando Pirates game.

But Mbombela has made me realise that if I want to stick around for the centenary year in 25 years it may be a good idea to skip Mbombela’s death trap.

It was not the first time football fans were treated like dirt by the Mbombela authorities. They did the same when Bafana Bafana played Niger last ­September.

For the sake of the fans, the municipality should be deprived of big-ticket fixtures unless it can give guarantees of basic safety standards that include law enforcement agencies and traffic control.

Perhaps now that an English team that is coming, the municipality and the organisers will jack up their act.

Which itself will be a pity because it will mean that South African football and state leaders value the reputation they enjoy in the eyes of foreigners more than they value the lives of fellow South Africans.

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