South Africa’s artists shouldn’t be the ones moaning. Do they really think they’re going to be worse off thanks to the World Cup?

In case you’ve been under a rock for the last few weeks, or have been too busy living your life to care, a bunch of South African artists, lead by the poet Mzwakhe Mbuli, are miffed with Fifa for leaving them out of the official Fifa opening concert.

Their logic is irrefutable. Almost. The World Cup is going to be hosted in South Africa (thanks very much, Australia, England, Germany and all the other Afro-pessimist trolls). The tourists coming here will be wanting the South African experience. No jokes about crime, please. Sure, the streets will be lined with those heavy-set mamas selling beadwork. Every oke and his mum will be braaing up a storm. I’ll have my picture taken again and again, especially if I go through with my plan to buy a pair of izimbadada (those excellent sandals crafted from old tyres) to wear during the World Cup. We’ll all do the diski. All so lovely. So obviously, the opening concert must feature a lot of South African artists.

Erm, no. Not actually.

See, here’s how it works. The World Cup is Fifa’s event. They rented the country from the government. Sort of. The analogy isn’t perfect, I know. Work with me. Fifa is going to have their World Cup in our country. It’s their event. What would you think if the guy you hired the sound system for a wedding insisted on rendering an item?

I’m just not sympathetic to Mzwakhe Mbuli’s complaint (his complaint, his complaint, his complaaaaaaint). Chaps, you got left out. It’s a big world. Suck it up.

Their little problem pales in comparison to what everyone else will go through once Sepp Bladder and his circus roll into town.

All the millions spent on advertising, for a kick-off. That billboard, sign or awning that you acquired at great expense, that now falls within the “designated areas”, can now be voided, at Fifa’s behest. You could’ve just as well donated the money to John McCain for his presidential campaign. At least it wouldn’t have all gone lost, you’d have bought us all some entertainment. What’s that you say about contract rights? Fifa have a special relationship with the rule of law, don’t you know, one that you and I aren’t privy to. Namely, it just doesn’t apply to them.

Thought you could enjoy a World Cup cup game and tackle a few cold ones down at your local? Not if the department of trade and industry have their way, and impose a R50 000 liquor licence, just for the duration of the World Cup. Can your publican afford that?

And I haven’t even got to the worst part. The people who really aren’t smiling about this entire process. The human flotsam, so easily forgotten by society and government. The hobboes, omalal’ epayipini, street kids, drunks, junkies and kerb beggars. The guv’ment is worried that Bruce from England, who will only have come down here to see Wayne Rooney not play in the World Cup, might see a beggar on the street, and be put off his breakfast sausages. The solution? Not rehabilitation, not shelter. No. The homeless will be carted off to the townships, and then forgotten. I don’t like to think about what may happen to those people in the townships.

I hope I’m wrong. I really, really hope I’m wrong. But I fear I’m not.

To hear some people talk, you’d think the World Cup is going to make us all rich. A lot of us are going to be sorely disappointed after July. Expect a bunch of protests, strongly-worded letters to the press, and maybe even a riot or two.

It’s too late, South Africa. It’s too late. All your base are belong to Fifa, at least till the 12th of July 2010.

You have been assimilated.

Resistance is futile.

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  • Sipho Hlongwane is a journalist and columnist for the Daily Maverick. He is an avid fan of jelly beans, Top Gear, Arsenal and thinks that South Africans tend to take themselves a little too seriously. [email protected]


Sipho Hlongwane

Sipho Hlongwane is a journalist and columnist for the Daily Maverick. He is an avid fan of jelly beans, Top Gear, Arsenal and thinks that South Africans tend to take themselves a little too seriously....

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