Hlengiwe Mnguni

Squash the rumour

2010-07-01 14:30

The World Cup has been charged by South Africans with the responsibility of changing many things: It will assert South Africa's image (and Africa's to an extent) as a place capable of giving to the world and meeting expectations; it will do amazing things for tourism; and it will put the rainbow nation dream back into focus.

But there seems to be less excitement about what prospects there are for the improvement of relations between ordinary Africans beyond soccer.

The idea that this is an African World Cup has been largely led from the front by the tournament's organisers and sponsors. That it is an African World Cup is no doubt. Geography says so. But I hope it is more than geography that makes this event African and not marketing convenience.

Because there are very few South Africans who don't just consider themselves African, but are curious enough to know more about Africa than what is on the news and even venture beyond the Limpopo. Most of us can hardly speak an African language beyond our borders.

Tomorrow night Ghana play Uruguay for a place in the semi-final. That is as far as any African team will have ever gone. They are officially carrying Africa's hope in the tournament as it takes place for the first time on the continent. South Africa has even given the Black Stars of Ghana a signature (bad) South African name – Baghana Baghana.

But somewhere away from the glare of World Cup fever rumours of xenophobic violence after the Cup still persist. After the Cup has been claimed and the VIPs go home, hatred will spring free and foreign nationals will be driven out.

Rumours are sometimes best ignored because talking about them gives them substance. But in cases where the rumour recalls scenes like those of the winter of 2008 when more than 60 people were brutally killed by ordinary South Africans, they are difficult to ignore.

We have burdened this tournament with a lot of expectations. And although some of them ended in disappointment, the feeling that all things good are possible, or at least within reach, is still in the air. Let's take advantage.

We all have a part to play, from employers who still hire undocumented foreign nationals; to those who see the scramble for jobs as justification for violence on any scale; and lawmakers who can still make improvements to immigration and hate crimes law.

So as we rally behind Ghana, let us hope the fever is enough to squash the rumour and ensure that beyond the World Cup, win or lose, South Africans in all spheres of life, commit themselves to finding better ways of dealing with the inevitability of a changing world.

- Follow Hlengiwe on Twitter.

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