Let’s undo the injustice

2010-04-23 00:00

AS a proud South African and one who is committed to playing his bit in “creating a 2010 legacy we can all be proud of”, I was reluctant to share my thoughts on a matter I find absurd and unfortunate for one genuinely to accept. My reluctance here is for the obvious reason, being labelle­d as makhalanjalo.

I have, however, gathered strength from the words of Cicero, who said: “A man full of courage is also full of faith.” In my view, I thought raising these issues now rather than later is courageous enough in that it shows faith in the people who are the architects of what could be our home-brewed downfall during the first ever African chapter of the World Cup, while dealing with ways that we could still change in the few days’ grace period before the kickoff of the World Cup.

Why now? Because I have observed with total dismay how our own noble sons and daughters of the soil have turned against us.

When the president of Fifa, Sepp Blatter, made that famous announcement, all of us here in South Africa and the entire continent of Africa, jumped up and down like a farmer who has just been hit by a drop of water on the forehead after having waited for decades in a vicious­ drought.

Little did we all know that we first had to fight commercial rights, advertising rights, patent rights (I am not even sure if some of us understand the implications of such words), the elitism behind the ticket sales system­, and fight for the participation of local artists in the 2010 opening concert, and for recognition of our football loyalists and legends.

There have been media reports, public protests and contradictions from Fifa and its Local Organising Committee (LOC) officials on how the majority of South Africans ought to benefit from the World Cup. In my view it is an African event that, by design, will benefit and be enjoyed by a few elite.

Firstly, the price of a ticket in a prime spot for the opening match between our own Bafana Bafana and Mexico is double the monthly wage of a farm worker in rural Venters­dorp in the North West.

Secondly, Fifa and the LOC decided to go for the inaccessible route in selling the World Cup tickets. The question then becomes, can we really expect proudly South African passion in our stadia during Bafana Bafana and other World Cup games? I ask this question because it is the same passion characterised by our own vuvuzela, makarapas, colourfulness, chanting and singing that saw us lifting the 2009 Best Supporters Award in Accra, Ghana, on March 11.

As if that weren’t enough, I was perturbed to learn that all the ticketing centres that opened during the window period of the over-the-counter ticket sales and the so-called selected Shoprite Checkers were located in the suburbs and not in rural-based Shoprite Checkers and Computickets.

The excuse I have picked up is the egotistical view held by Rich Mkhondo, the Chief Communications Officer of the LOC that, “South Africans need to move away from their sense of entitlement.” I wonder if such a view is tantamount to allowing a guest into your own house, who then starts making demands and suggesting how best to arrange your furniture.

Well, this is not how the majority of proud South Africans have been raised. We are resolute in our pride, culture and heritage and as hospitable as we may be, we take offence with any move that seeks to suppress our pride.

Again, we often talk frankly against Afro-pessimism, but one wonders how on Earth we found ourselves having to convince Fifa that local is lekker, because of the western-dominated list of artists who will perform during the opening concert of the World Cup on June 10.

The media officer of Fifa confidently reminded us that “This is the World Cup and because of the commercial rights by various global companies, Fifa has the obligation of ensuring that the concert features artists with international stature.” Does this mean that our artists, who have rocked the world, do not have international stature? I don’t think so.

The Minister of Arts and Culture, Lulu Xingwana, had to intervene swiftly with regards to a legitimate­ protest by Mabutho “Kid” Sithole of the Creative Workers Union, for local artists to form 80% of the performance list. Her noteworthy mediation between Fifa and the union, which resulted in concessions being made by the event organisers, is maybe a sign that for us to get things right with Fifa and the LOC, we need the government’s intervention so that our talent, skill, loyalty and priceless contribution to football are embraced.

I therefore plead with local vendors and tavern owners, soccer legends and everyone else who feels hard done-by by Fifa and the LOC to use the days remaining before the World Cup to seek government’s intervention for legitimate grievances they may have. You might just be lucky enough to undo the injustice.

I have no doubt that South Africans­ will not despair, but will continue to protect our African identity and heritage by, among other things, supporting the African chapter of the World Cup, in the best way possible. What makes South Africans unique is their patriotism, which promotes an open but dignified debate on matters of national interest and importance.

I therefore wish to make a plea to all South Africans to remember our president’s call and play their part in “creating the 2010 Fifa World Cup we can all be proud of”.


• Siyabulela Makunga is an executive director of the South African Football Supporters Association. The association was established in 1992 and was registered in 2007, to mobilise the nation behind all the national football teams while creating an enabling environment within which football loyalists can play a meaningful role in the transformation and development of football. He writes in his personal capacity.

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