Azad Essa
Azad Essa

One hundred days to being screwed over

I don’t like press conferences. Organised to propagate nothing more than a particular message, they are spaces where real questions are rarely asked because they are really no place for real answers.

Everything is pre-empted, rehearsed, and answers are a performed act, designed by media experts, advisers and prom queen mothers.

Everyone knows that real answers to probing questions are found in the most unlikely of places: in the bar, on the golf course, in someone else’s bed.

The journalists who are forced to patronise press conferences merely rotate old rhetoric on new paper before they go outside to cuss and light a smoke.

“He didn’t answer anyone’s questions properly”, “This is such bullshit”, or “This was pointless — again” loop through the vacant corridors like frustrated broken records.

So if any journalist expected to receive any substantial answers on anything other than hackneyed “100 days to the World Cup” comments from Fiaf’s big boys or representatives of the South African government at the press conference held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday, they should have hit the beach instead.

I knew I should have.

Sepp Blatter entertained as he showcased his good humour and neatly packaged rhetoric about “Fifa giving back to Africa”. Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe charmed as he smiled about wanting to put on his “boots and run on the pitch”.

And fair enough, this was a happy occasion that celebrated the winding route of a journey that started about 2 000 days ago when South Africa first won the bid to host the event.

The road has been long, filled with international scepticism, talk of an imminent plan B and C, of long hard work in constructing multiple new stadiums, upgrading roads, transport systems, stadium precincts, and now, just 100 days were left to the greatest show on Earth.

But the World Cup was not sold on the back of a logic that simply promised feeling good about ourselves.

And unfortunately, while dignitaries answered eloquently on typically over-asked questions regarding what this World Cup would mean to the people of South Africa and Africa in terms of nation building, self-esteem and pride, there was little attempt to address the legitimate concerns posed by some journalists interested in more than the glitz and glam.

With 100 days to go, a plethora of unanswered questions remain hanging in the air about what this event will actually do for the people of South Africa.

A question posed about the thousands of construction workers who have now lost their jobs following the completion of the stadiums turned our beaming Deputy President into a fumbling comedian, mumbling on about how the construction industry was the only sector that saw growth during the recession.

A question posed on what percentage of revenue made by Fifa would be put back into South African football and as a country saw a Fifa representative admitting that it was a difficult question but then u-turning and assuring everyone that Fifa’s financial statements were completely transparent.

A question asked about the possible lack of professionalism in African football and the effect it has on preparations for the World Cup following the recent sacking of the Ivory Coast and Nigerian managers, saw Safa president Kirsten Nematandani go on a misdirected rant about how immensely prepared Bafana Bafana will be under Alberto Carlos Pereira.

In all three examples, none of the concerns were addressed in the slightest.

It didn’t help that eThekwini Mayor Obed Mlaba looked constipated, KZN premier Zweli Mkhize seemed disinterested and Local Organising Committee chairperson Irvin Khoza appeared pensive as they collectively stuck to singing school hymns about the World Cup taking us closer to Jesus (and economic prosperity), rather than addressing the concerns of the ordinary.

For a country that was sold the World Cup based on the positive spin-offs the event will have on the economy and South African society, it was embarrassing to listen to South African leaders mumble awkwardly when it came to just about any question that posed half-a-challenge.

They even looked, I dare say, incessantly unprepared.

It is unsurprising that at the same time, on the other side of town, the World Class Cities for All Campaign (WCCA) were issuing their own press statements commemorating the 100 days before kick-off with a completely different angle.

There was no talk about a grand wedding ceremony that would consummate the splendid love affair between Fifa and South Africa as described by Blatter.

The focus of these statements rested on tangible impact on the urban poor, and those whose lives have had to change as a result of the World Cup coming to our shores.

“With 100 days to go before the games open, official action towards the urban poor fails to meet any standard of fair play,” said Pat Horn, StreetNet International coordinator in the statement.

“We want to see African street culture, music and indigenous food, the ‘shisa nyama’, informal traders, as an integral part of a visitor’s experience of South Africa,” she continued .

“However, the opposite is happening. The host city by-laws ensure there is no trading near the stadiums and Fifa copyright and agreements are firmly in the hands of big business. Worse still, in some of the fan parks, such as in Cape Town, the livelihood of informal traders are under threat, as existing trading sites will be taken over by official Fifa concessions.

The WCCA further alleges that in Mbombela, a school that was destroyed to make way for a stadium, was replaced by a temporary structure and a tangible commitment to replace the school has still not yet been met.

Furthermore, the statement says that in Cape Town, the popular Parade and Green Market Square have been declared off limits for informal traders after being declared official fan-parks. With less than 100 days to go, the informal traders association is still awaiting a reply form the city regarding their objection to the decision.

More than 900 000 jobs were lost in 2009, and with economic recovery yet to initiate a ripple-effect to the lowest strata of job creation, the informal economy is still the respite of most unemployed South Africans seeking work.

The WCCA argues that the World Cup does little for this segment of society, except to forcibly remove “the undesirable” and create further impediments to earning a living.

The irony of the press conference held at the Moses Mabhida stadium was that the harder dignitaries tried to elucidate that “time for scepticism had passed”, that “this really was Africa’s moment” or campaigning “football for hope, development and good health”, the further they diverted from the real issues.

There are serious doubts that ordinary South Africans will benefit, but no one really wants to talk about this.

Instead, Fifa and the South African government continue to brand this event as the ultimate intervention towards ending international pessimism about Africa.

So determined are they, that they are willing to strip the rights of “poor Black Africans” in a bid to get the multibillion audience to catch a glimpse of the other Africa: plush stadiums, uShaka, shopping malls and Kruger National Park.

The ugly truth is that our government officials and leaders merely pitched up at this latest press conference to convey the “I was there” chant.

The real issues were ignored; in fact there wasn’t even a hint of interest.

Only the dim-witted government and Fifa communication officers walked away feeling that the World Cup was really about anything more than ending Afro-pessimism and stroking a couple of shiny suits.

  • Dave Harris

    You are obviously clueless to the worldwide recession thats tightening its grip on the rest of the world. Entire countries are failing!
    Without the WC we would have been mired in an even greater recession economically. As long as you have a job, you can conveniently sneer at the job creation potential of the WC on the longer term. If you can extricate your self from your myopia and pause your partisan bickering you will be able to see the true potential of the biggest sporting event in the world.

    So what are you doing to “ending Afro-pessimism” or are you like the previously privileged take fiendish delight in propagating negativity and doom and gloom?

  • Hlami Sithole

    Oh well,I for one am looking forward to the world cup.No sarcasm there,a lot of work has gone into it,am sure south africa will do itself and africa proud,cant wait.

  • Panchetta

    The sober-minded among us were never excited about this event. The billions spent have once again been diverted away from the desperately downtrodden who will get their moment of escapism from poverty in the shebeen getting mindlessly (evermore) drunk on dreams and promises.

  • Dave Stroud

    Thank you for this refreshingly honest article. I find myself getting increasingly angry at how much we as a nation are being screwed by Fifa and government ministers. I am not exited about the World Cup. This exercise has had no real positive effect on the lives of the poor…at best they are being excluded in their own nation…shocking!

  • Errol Goetsch

    sigh. as a critic of the world cup and olympics coming to SA – because the net profits are private and the net lossses are public – it was sad to see in the media, early acceptance of the propaganda that promised an impossible amount of tourists, jobs and spin offs.

  • MLH

    Yeah, just another piece of bling that South Africa had to have. They pay happily for certification from Matric to doctorates and have done exactly the same for the World Cup. Unfortunately, the masses listen avidly to the excuses and don’t change their thinking about their real rights.

  • Hlami Sithole

    Oh I do love when people bemoan ‘the masses’ ie ‘bleddy ignorant blecks’,judging by the tyre burning in the streets,many of ‘the masses’ are not listening ‘avidly to the excuses’.

    Before people go ‘oh its their fault for voting ANC’i’m sure many did not vote either way and,

    Who pray tell,is their genuine other choice?
    The DA???Hahaha.The reason the ANC is so successful is because their roots and structures are everywhere.Its all well and good Zille going to dance in townships and kiss black babies during elections,but where is the real engagement with the
    black majority across the country the rest of the time?

    What does an elderly grandma in Limpopo know of the DA?Nothing,because the DA know nothing about her.

    What she knows is despite the ANCs faults,they
    brought down apartheid and in the space of 20 odd years of transitioning from a country where the majority of resources were lavished on a minority,to serving the entire nation,they have provided millions with water,electrictity and houses.I don’t blame her for voting ANC.

    Its easy for those who have always had everything to smugly look down on ‘the masses.’

    Until the DA and other opposition parties offer more to people than issuing press releases obsessing about the ANC and preaching to their converted,they will remain with their current voter share.

  • http://www.thewritesquad.co.za Andrew Rose

    I’m no economist, eternal optimist or political analyst, but we’re not alone in this experience and I’ve never taken the words of politicians at face value.

    Was it the Atlanta or LA Olympic games that were the only games to have made a financial profit? I think Germany was the first country that managed to break-even or something (ok maybe I’m sucking thumbs here, but I do know many World Cup footy events have ended in massive financial burdens). I know that the new Olympic stadium in London is becoming a financial and political nightmare. My point, we’re not alone as a country who in the majority choose en masse to believe incompetent and self-serving politicians. I’d rather SA spend this money on beautiful engineering than send space-age tanks to fight suicide bombers.

    WC 2010 is happening and I agree that we’re very lucky to have had the economic opportunities to build when the developed world was shutting down.

    Sport in general is an inspiration to me, and I have an opportunity to see some amazing athletes in the flesh. We are free to choose whatever reality we want and I have chosen to escape with a few 100,000 people for at least 6 games, and in that time I’ll choose to forget about the lies that are a curse on our country.
    Si Ya Ya Bafana Bafana ..!

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/azadessa Azad Essa

    No Dave, you are missing the point Sir.

    FIFA & the SA government approached this world cup with the intention to strike a blow to afro-pessism with regards to “look, we can host the world’s greatest event”

    But so what if we can host the greatest event?? We have big companies who have the capability to put things/events/stadiums/roads/pitches together, and if we did not, we could’ve easily imported them.

    How does this end afro-pessimism exactly when we really rampant inequality/unemployment/poverty and this cup will not change this…?

    Of course the World Cup cannot do everything, but trampling on the poor to push a plastic image of our country is unacceptable.

  • Billy C

    The hype and hysteria of all the business oportunities, a massive tourist bonanza and FIFA spinoffs have shown to be made of straw.

    In a hundred days we’ll see all the ANC big shots ensconced in the presidential boxes while the plebs scuffle for overpriced tickets in the back row behind a pillar.

    Its the same old same old as the spin off industries around the arms deal – how many actually saw the light of day and provided the promised jobs. The only thing that did happen was many ANC big shots bank balances grew exponentially

  • Panchetta

    Dave,

    Only the village idiot gets robbed in broad daylight without realising it, and it is only the blind drunk who does not feel the rug being pulled from under him.

    Which of these is you?

  • http://www.nakedlaw.co.za Carl Wille

    I agree Azad. Thick as thieves. The working class, the middle class, professionals and intellectuals must unite and hold our ostensible leaders and the local and foreign business partners in crime accountable. Time for a real revolution. Time for change.

  • Peace In Our Time

    @Dave Harris. I take exception to your blaming the previously privileged for what is happening here around FIFA and SWC. This is a Dr Phil article and is a refreshing blast of truth. As the previously privleged many people knew the facts regarding the records of these events and their hype in other oountries but were shouted down and called couter revolutionaries etc. How much good are these stadiums going to do the previously and still underprivileged in the decades to come. Certainly it created a false sense of hope for those who were employed by it but if FIFA so loved our country and Africa why then did they not rather insist on improvement of existing facilities and particularly areas which need urgent attetion in our communites like hospital maitenance as a spin off and schools and better security for people who will still be living here long after the SWC is over. THAT would have been a far better approach to the seeing Africa as it really is – the poverty and lack of interest in the reality of Africa. Let us rather pretend that this is a First World country for a month. The ANC do not want people from other countries here unless they come bearing huge financial rewards for the few in power which is no different to the privileged everywhere. It’s fine to talk the talk but lets see those people who come here actually do something in real terms for the poor.

  • Dave Harris

    “rampant inequality/unemployment/poverty and this cup will not change this…?”
    Don’t you think this is disingenuous to expect the WC to solve these problems actually resulting from the apartheid government’s false belief of racial superiority and centuries of colonialism?

    Azad, are you so short-sighted that you simply cannot see the positive longterm effects of this exposure give us? In the past, SA was the pariah of the civilized world and most countries simply severed ALL diplomatic ties to with the apartheid state. This international sporting event presents the opportunity to undo much of that damage.

    No doubt, there will a financial hangover after this WC, and property prices will most likely be the first casualty, but the longterm effects are undeniable and SA’s acceptance into the world of nations is a HUGE accomplishment. Remember rugby and cricket are only played by the commonwealth countries – this is dwarfed in comparison to the Fifa WC.

  • David Brown

    Celebration and festival have been used for manipulative purpose for a long time in history nothing new, not as exciting as Romans feeding Christians to the Lions in vast Stadia but still the same purpose.Followed by bread and wine for the miserable masses. Spotting the manipulative factors around us are better done through satire rather than boring exposition. Psst -the World Cup will not solve unemployment in SA. Grumbles of agreement and we go back to the weekend .When writing the truth we should not underestimate the audience and conjure only a lament…..

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/azadessa Azad Essa

    @Dave Harris I am not prepared to drink to “long-term effects” any longer. These are the type of concoctions pushed by the IMF/World Bank for the last twenty years. “borrow now, survive later”. They tell you that the short-term will be hard; what they don’t guarantee is there will ever be a better long-term. So yes, I’m short-sighted and I wish you would be too. Perhaps, small goals will help since we are utterly incapable of following long-term ideas..

    @David Brown Agreed. This was boring as hack. But satire does not work all the time. Surely you agree that the issues need to be pasted in straightforward form as well…?

  • Panchetta

    No Davey boy, there will be NO positive long-term effects of the World Cup. It will come and go at massive expense to our country which will never be recouped. Your starry eyes will dim in the long-term, as our country harvests the negative effects of a crumbling political administration and resulting disinvestment.

    Grow up or wake up, whichever is it?

  • Alan in Botswana

    Corrupt and inept politicians have made a pact with FIFA which involves sidelining small businesses so FIFA can make a killing, before dashing off into the sunset. My advice is ignore the FIFA imposed monopoly. Sell your wares wherever you normally do and let the world’s media see your own government closing down your indigenous businesses and throwing you in jail for trying to survive. Give FIFA as much bad publicity as you can and hopefully you can embarrass them into semi-human behaviour. FIFA is a predatory organisation and you are the prey.

  • Dave Harris

    @Azad Essa
    Instead of trying to “drink to “long-term effects””, how about THINK long term effects.
    “… they don’t guarantee is there will ever be a better long-term”
    NOBODY can guarantee anything longterm Azad, its up to us to create that!!!
    Think about the young kids who were protesting for a better education, where they thinking short-term? No, they were thinking about freedom for their kids and grandkids!

    btw. You still haven’t explained why you expect the WC to magically solve “rampant inequality/unemployment/poverty ” – problems resulting from centuries of opression.
    Why? Seems like you’re already preparing to declare the WC a failure?

  • http://hismastersvoice.wordpress.com The Creator

    If the World Cup benefits the people of South Africa it will be a surprise, because so much money has been spent on stadiums we didn’t need, transport going in useless directions, PR in support of the World Cup and trinkets made in China.

    Mr. Harris, blind endorsement of your rulers’ decisions is not patriotic, it is simply foolish. You are perfectly entitled to hope that the World Cup will be less of a disaster than some of the rest of us fear. If you are right, good for you. But don’t make yourself foolish urging us to fantasise success against the odds.

  • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/azadessa Azad Essa

    @Dave Harris whether I think or drink, its not in my hands. if you cant guarantee anything long-term, then how dare you trample on the present and marginalize people with concoctions of the future? are you really comparing protesting/sacrifice of the personal with people making money through sacrificing other people’s lives??

    I did not say that it was meant to solve poverty/unemployment/Aids/blue bottles on durban’s beach front…but it was sold on an economic rationale was it not….yet, now – people don’t stand to benefit…even worse they stand to lose further.

    what do you mean by success or failure? I believe we will have a successful world cup in terms of an event/esteem. but more than that? no. it will do nothing tangible for most people and will only benefit those in power…

    and I would like to ask you something…what is afro pessimism?? is it about the inability of Africa to host anything important or is it about Africa being poor?

    we are going to host the World Cup pretty well but more than 40% will still remain below the poverty line/more than 25% will still be unemployed – but at least the world won’t think we have wild animals running in on our streets. is that what you want to say?

  • Michael Liermann

    “SA’s acceptance into the world of nations is a HUGE accomplishment…”

    Allow me to point out that China, an outright dictatorial regime, hosted the last Summer Olympics. I don’t consider being allowed into the same club as China to be an accomplishment on the same scale as, let’s say, getting some of SA’s shack-dwellers into proper houses, or developing rural areas, or any of the other ways to actually improve the lives of SA’s citizens.

    So we are now considered a suitable destination for C-list celebrities and B-list film productions. I’m sure that’s a great comfort to the many informal traders who, thanks to FIFA’s exclusion zones and the extensive urban remodelling carried out as a result, have lost their livelihoods. “Sorry I can’t feed you this week, my children, but here is a picture of the Beckhams shopping in Sandton City. Feel the warm glow of our beloved country’s international acceptance, and never mind that you’re living in a shack and crapping in a bucket; Dave Harris says you need to think long-term.”

  • Dave Harris

    @Azad Essa & The Creator
    OK, rather that address your confused ramblings, let me ask you this simple question:
    Would you prefer that we did NOT host the WC?

    You guys are either clueless or lying SOBs when you speak about caring for the unemployed/poor etc!
    I suspect both!

    Lets face it Azad, it seems like you, together with the previously advantaged, have a propensity to attribute alll our poverty and unemployment to the “corruption” in the ANC government and not the vast wealth disparity created by centuries of oppression!

    @Michael Liermann
    “I don’t consider being allowed into the same club as China to be an accomplishment…”
    China is an ancient civilization THOUSANDS of years old, thats is now on the rebound. For all its faults its a GREAT civilization. Sorry Michael, your days of white supremacy are over, stop being a hypocrite pretending to care for the poor shackdwellers.

  • Hugh Robinson

    @Hlami Sithole surely your understanding of history is somewhat warped Sir. As I understand it the ANC used the commoner as connon fodder whilst leading them to believe that they would have everything free. They have now discovered that there is a proce attached to that free. The granny knows the ANC but has been brainwashed into believing that the DA will take away the benefits as payment for ANC support.

    The government lied from the start. It kept secret all those worms the are coming from the wood work. They have known the reality all along but need the world validation.

  • Panchetta

    Dave, your arguments are immature. This makes it very difficult to debate because there is no matching of our logic with your fragmented reasoning.

    May I suggest that you run along to The Times Live site and you will be the big fish with an audience that wil adore you.

  • Michael Liermann

    To Dave Harris:
    “I don’t consider being allowed into the same club as China to be an accomplishment…”
    China is an ancient civilization THOUSANDS of years old, thats is now on the rebound. For all its faults its a GREAT civilization.

    And some of its faults include holding public executions and then selling the organs on the black market, massively polluting the areas its people live in through unregulated industrialisation, suppressing free speech and political activity, suppressing trade union activity, and generally pissing all over the idea of a democratic society. If you consider that a negligible fault, then that says a whole lot about you and your convictions.

    Anyway, as I am not a proctologist, I will devote no further attention to you and your arguments; there is nothing to be gained thereby. Be nice if this site added a proper forum for these discussions, so that one could killfile your contributions – the signal-to-noise ration would be immeasurably improved thereby.

  • Dave Harris

    @Michael Liermann
    “one could killfile your contributions”
    I didn’t realize the truth hurt that much.
    Anyway, your views of China are typical of indoctrinated white SAns who cannot understand how civilizations like China and India can survive for thousands of years in relative peace and are now poised to become economic and military superpowers. But I suppose all those years of apartheid indoctrination has the ironic effect of self-inflicting ones own extinction. Its just a matter of time I suppose…

  • Johan Meyer

    (Off-topic) @Hugh Robinson
    I’ve read War Junkie, so here’s my review

  • Desire, Uganda

    Azad, thanks for that analysis. Africa has alot to prove to the world, but the way we go about it is amazing. A few years ago Uganda held the Common Wealth meting in which all economic promises were laid on the table. It is now that we realise how much the people were taken for a ride. The poor were kept from the visitors’ eyes; roads to posh resorts were built; govt gave out tax payer’s to private businesses with ‘connections’ etc. You will only sincerely know what went down when the World cup is concluded, if SA gets near to breaking even, send me mail. My guess is that as you count your losses after the WC, you will be trailing in the footsteps of other African countries that have suffered the same fate! Like I always say, SA proudly African like the rest of us, the sooner it sinks in and people act on it, the better.

  • little_bit_dof

    @Dave:

    Ok, so lets think long term right. 20 years from today and the WC has hugely improved our international image. We have massess of chinese and indians coming for holiday (by your next superpower assertion) and spending tourism bucks. The tourism bosses and select bee counterparts get richer, and then take that same wealth and purchase Indian and Chinese products. Net effect money leaves SA anayway.

    Consider also, a poor homeless child who could have been educated and nurtured using the (squandered) WC funds. Twenty years on he is now 18, desperate, jobless, hungry, wandering the streets and on the look out for a means to survive. He resorts to crime. Hijacking at gunpoint. One night you (Dave) pull up at a red light…

    Now do you understand part of the reason for worrying about the poor, uneducated and homeless? Think big picture..

  • ian shaw

    WE went begging to FIFA for the privilege of becoming the host for the WC, with the purpose of advertising African capabilities. So they think they did us a favour and this gave them the idea to insist that virtually all the financial gains benefit them, not us. It is an expensive advertising campaign for which we will be paying for a long time.

  • Ant K

    Yes there may be argument justifying the expense on the WC but perhaps in the rich EU it may be justified spending R30 million on a new stadium in Durban holding 70,000 next to an old one holding 60,000 and then only playing 7 WC games in it, but in Africa this is dire waste of money that could have provided homes and long term jobs for many more people rather than benefiting very few and crippling ratepayers for many years to come. Cape Town with its rainy winters should have spent the money putting a opening/closing roof on the stadium, allowing for use in pop concerts in all weathers. We should have used our existing infrastructure better and the WC would be just as good and enjoyable.

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