Poor not scoring with SWC

2010-05-07 12:49

Johannesburg - A half-demolished shell of a house, graffiti snaking up its crumbling walls, catches the eye on Ascot Road in Bertrams, a suburb flanking the Ellis Park stadium which will host the World Cup semi-final and at least six other soccer matches less than two months from now.

Residents of Bertrams, Troyeville, Bezuidenhout Valley and Kensington joined the revelry when it was announced in 2004 that South Africa would host the soccer spectacular.

They expected that their communities would be transformed by the time the kick-off whistle blew. This was not to be.

While there was a massive upgrade of the Ellis Park precinct with upgrading of the roads and lighting and the introduction of the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System, the neighbouring suburbs are largely untouched.

"There are still broken buildings and blocked drains. It is no better now," says a resident who shares a house with seven others next door to the ruined shell on Ascot Road.

"It is still always dirty here and we still don't have jobs," says another resident, Zodwa Sheze, who lives in a house further down Ascot Road.


Sheze acknowledges that the streets of Bertrams - once a haven for drug dealers - were much safer.

At the new Ascot Guesthouse, visitors are ushered in through large black metal gates with an intercom.

There is at least one guesthouse on every block in the suburb and bed-and-breakfasts started by residents and those with a keen eye for a business opportunity.

They recognised the area's potential early on and began by providing accommodation from their homes.

Dudu Nkandla expects business to pick up at the Ascot Guesthouse at the start of the World Cup - one of the main reasons for its creation.

Business was, in any event, "good already" so "we are not worried about after the World Cup".

Munya Furamera, the manager of the newly-renovated Ellis Park Hotel, says that while the World Cup was the main catalyst behind the upgrading of the hotel, he believes the benefits will reach beyond the six-week-long soccer tournament.

"Although it's fantastic to have the Cup here, it's only six weeks. We are keeping our eye on the long-term."

Hotel guests are mostly African. Furamera expects this to continue during and beyond the Cup.
"Most of our customers are from the region and they generally walk in without bookings."

Looking beyond tournament

In Kensington, a picturesque suburb near the Ellis Park precinct, the Eastgate Palms Guest Lodge, along Kitchener Avenue, is expecting guests from South Africa, Africa and Europe during the tournament.

Assistant Peter King agrees that businesses in the area have to look beyond the tournament.

With rooms from R250 per night, the lodge is well-placed to do so, he says. It has been in operation for just a year.

Other residents of the areas surrounding the stadium are determined to use the World Cup as a business opportunity, though many are battling to negotiate the many rules and regulations imposed by FIFA.

Fikile Buthelezi lives across the road from the Johannesburg Stadium, next to Ellis Park, and is known for her hearty, tasty meals.

She complains that she wants to sell food to soccer fans, but does not know how to apply for a permit.

This is a key challenge facing the community, says Ethel Williams-Abrahamse, co-ordinator of the Troyeville and Kensington Fan Village - a community group intent on showing global soccer fans a good time.

"There is a whole lot of confusion over what we can and can't do.

"It's difficult to get clarification over where the exclusion zone begins and ends."

Working around exclusion areas

Exclusion zones are areas set aside for FIFA-approved traders.

Troyeville, where Mahatma Ghandi once lived, used to be rich in culture, architecture and family-owned restaurants, but has become run-down and neglected.

"There was a general feeling of optimism, but nothing happened. Now even the few who still want to take advantage of the economic opportunity are filled with anxiety," says Williams-Abrahamse, adding that residents will still "do their thing", despite the confusion.

"We still going ahead, we're making sure that vendors know they will be jailed if they are in the exclusion zones, but we are opening our homes.

"We will have events every night. We will feed people from our homes."

High expectations

Democratic Alliance Johannesburg caucus leader Victor Penning finds the lack of development in Bertrams and its surrounds a "huge disappointment".

"There was so much talk and plans when we won the bid but it all fizzled out, it was just talk.

"The expectation was that there would be a major revamp of Bertrams right into Bez Valley... Residents lived in hope that their property would increase in value..., but it never materialised."

While the World Cup was much anticipated and communities were excited, they were realising that the possible benefits to them were exaggerated.

"Communities and small traders stand to gain very little in this area," says Penning.

Must work

Residents will blow their vuvuzelas, wave their South African flags and wear their Bafana Bafana jerseys, but they are also bracing for the inconvenience of road closures and permit requirements to access their homes and businesses on match days.

Steven Mpofu, who owns Steve's Braai Corner, along Derby Road in Bertrams, and lives nearby, was heading to a meeting at the Jeppe police station to discuss the permit requirements.

Only those residents who are pro-active will benefit from the event, he says, but adds that this doesn't amount to much in an area where poverty and unemployment is rife.

"It's those who prepared who will benefit, like we revamped our shops, but for the residents it's different. What can they do?" he asks.

A lone painter, his paint brushes and rollers in a sack over his shoulder and a bucket in his hand, calls out to residents along Millbourn Road, offering them his services.

Johannes Sithole makes a living walking around his neighbourhood doing paint jobs, but business is slow, he says.

"I am just a painter, I will watch the soccer, but I must work. I cannot eat it soccer," he laughs.