Out-of-touch elites

2013-08-23 00:00

IAM never too sure whether to lament the indifference of the elite or laugh at how out of touch they can be.

Take last weekend’s big sports and pop jamboree for former president Nelson Mandela. At face value, bringing together soccer and rugby supporters (shorthand for black and white fans, respectively) under one roof, must have sounded like a brilliant idea.

Things get a bit complicated when you look at the matter closer. If you start with how much it costs for you to show your commitment to the non-racial project, you soon realise that those who plan such events might have honourable intentions, but they seem to live in a different economy from the vast majority of South Africans.

If they did not, they would know that there are very few South Africans — black or white — who, in these tough economic times of ever-increasing petrol, electricity and food prices, would not have found it difficult to spend the R220 for a ticket. That figure, by the way, was for the cheapest ticket. The most expensive (excluding suite tickets) sold at R550.

When you consider that the Sharks versus Blue Bulls game at the Shark Tank at the end of this month will set fans back R55, or that ordinary soccer fans complained bitterly when tickets were raised from R20 to R40 two seasons ago, you realise that the event was never about, or for, those who support the sporting codes every week and are its lifeblood.

Even saying that one of the reasons for the gig was to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital is not enough.

Who decides that the poor and ordinary South Africans should not partake in this noble gesture?

As was the case with the Fifa World Cup, such events might be couched as nation-building projects, but the high ticket prices that one needs to be able to afford to enjoy the benefits of being part of the Rainbow Nation, keep the majority, black and white, on the sidelines.

Chances are that those who were able to afford to watch the Springboks play against the Argentina Pumas and Bafana Bafana play against the Burkina Faso Stallions, already share each other’s spaces.

Chances are that their children already go to the same schools and live in the same secure complexes or gated communities.

Class has almost replaced race as the facilitator of privilege and patronage. I say almost, because a white working class is still an anthropological curiosity.

There is a still a huge number of South Africans in employment who, despite working hard and keeping their living standards moderate, cannot afford satellite television, let alone exorbitant ticket prices, and they continue to be exposed only to each other’s lives and nothing beyond that.

If the elites are really interested in national cohesion, as they said Saturday’s project was about, they could do better than place it out of reach of ordinary South Africans.

South Africa does not belong only to all those who live in it, black and white. It also belongs to all who live in it, rich and poor.

• Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is a freelance journalist and former editor of The Witness.

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