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Don’t forget Mbeki and De Klerk

While South Africa, and its many guests from around the world, celebrate the 19th Fifa World Cup, two of the men who made it possible have been largely overlooked. They are two of our former presidents, Thabo Mbeki and Frederik Willem de Klerk.

The former was president when the successful bid was launched, the latter part of the delegation entrusted with bringing the tournament home to Africa.

The rest is history.

This is not meant to be a discussion on the part played by both in bringing apartheid to an end, which made it possible, nor a look at whether the World Cup will unite the country or not.

This is meant to be confirmation that these two individuals played a pivotal part in daring to dream that Africa could host the biggest event on the planet. Not one of the biggest, not the largest sporting event but, by a million miles away and undeniably, the big daddy of all things on planet Earth. To give you an idea, the world television audience for the Olympic Games is about a tenth of that of the World Cup, which comes in at about six times the total world population.

Of course it has hopelessly overrun budget and undoubtedly there is going to be a huge price to pay for hosting this mammoth event. I have no doubt that after the event we will never hear the end of it with much of the criticism valid.

What cannot be denied, however, is that for once Africa is the bride and not the bridesmaid. The spotlight is firmly focused upon us and so far we have not done a bad job of looking after the biggest show on Earth.

Of course there is crime, ask those who attended other World Cups, it draws criminals like a magnet. Worse the tragedy on Table Mountain, the heart attack in Durban and of course Madiba’s loss. These things are unfortunate and happen even when we aren’t hosting the World Cup.

Mysteriously and unless I’m very much mistaken there is no handgun or rifle competition at the WC; that’s at the Olympics. Why then the security guards and bus drivers are frantically competing to see who can blast more of their foot away is beyond me. What they have proved to everyone is that when it matters, theirs is an unreliable industry that needs more government and less self-regulation. You do not protest while thousands of overseas guests are leaving a stadium or abandon them at Soccer City.

Regardless and with fingers tightly crossed the tournament will prove to be a huge success.

This means that there really is nothing beyond the capability of South Africa and nobody will ever be able to take that away from us despite all the problems that will invariably flow from hosting the biggest party around.

Yet when Mbeki and De Klerk and the whole crew started to work on this it must have seemed light years away. Nobody ever gave Africa serious thought. Worse after losing out to Germany many would have said “that’s it”, caved in and abandoned ship, but they stuck to their guns.

And they brought football and humanity home to Africa.

Whatever else you might say in favour of or against these former presidents they brought us something that — hopefully — we will treasure for the rest of our lifetime and others beyond that.

If I haven’t mentioned the rest of the team who achieved this incredible feat it’s because everybody else has and this needed to be said.

Enjoy the tournament gentlemen you played a major role in making it possible.


  • Mike Trapido is a criminal attorney and publicist having also worked as an editor and journalist. He was born in Johannesburg and attended HA Jack and Highlands North High Schools. He married Robyn in 1984 (Mrs Traps, aka "the government") and has three sons (who all look suspiciously like her ex-boss). He was a counsellor on the JCCI for a year around 1992. His passions include Derby County, Blue Bulls, Orlando Pirates, Proteas and Springboks. He takes Valium in order to cope with Bafana Bafana's results. Practice Michael Trapido Attorney (civil and criminal) 011 022 7332 Facebook


  1. George Makola George Makola 15 June 2010

    Prez Mbeki probably found your spot-on article amusing cos he struck me as someone who isnt obsessed with accolades or awards(deservedly or not),especially from the highly-ideological local media and their commentators whose hearts are heavy with hatred.

  2. Peter Win Peter Win 15 June 2010

    Good point !

    And all kudos to them for making it happen !

  3. Atlas Reader Atlas Reader 15 June 2010

    “…Africa is the bride and not the bridesmaid. The spotlight is firmly focused upon us…”

    Note, “Africa”, not “South Africa”.

    There’s an attempt to claim success of one country to be spread across the whole continent. But when the implosive madness of Zimbabwe is used to slur the whole continent, there are howls of outrage at this extension of guilt.

    Can’t have it both ways.

  4. grant9 grant9 16 June 2010

    I hpoe you’re right that at the end of the day the 2010 tournament will be judged to be a success. I still doubt it.

  5. nzs nzs 16 June 2010

    Well, Traps

    The relentless revisioning of South African history (particularly on who played what role in the fruits currently enjoyed) is meant to divert attention from the fact that there is one prurient polygamist who is known for nothing other than shagging around (and then smiling about it).

    To make people forget about his shenanigans, he climbs on the podium and tell all those who care to listen that Mandela (and, by association to reminding everyone, himself) singlehandedly brought the World Cup to South Africa.

    One thing I can tell you is that sexually transmitted diseases (like syphillis) is known to have degenerative effect on mental functioning. No wonder the prurient ones end up believing their own doses of lies, which they feed to the South African public.

  6. MLH MLH 16 June 2010

    Yeah! I doubt either envisaged the lack of service delivery that is likely still to result from this year as we struggle to pay off the debt and view our white elephants sceptically.

    And it really doesn’t say much for humanity that this is the most important event in the world.

    Still, enjoy, Guys! It may be the last fun treat you have for quite a while, unless you are towards the top of the ANC enclave.

  7. Adrian Galley Adrian Galley 16 June 2010

    I am baffled by the statement: ” … the world television audience for the Olympic Games is about a tenth of that of the World Cup, which comes in at about six times the total world population.”

    Arithmetic never has been one of my strengths but you seem to imply that the total television audience includes more people than are accommodated on the planet – six times more!?

    Am I to conclude that you and I are similarly gifted in our numeracy skills, or is it language that lets you down here?

  8. Wondering Wondering 16 June 2010

    Thanks for reminding us!

  9. kgomotso kgomotso 16 June 2010

    Thats typical of South Africans. You talk about the struggle only one names comes up; Madiba. I love Mandela but lets not shower him at the exclusion of others. He is what he is because he had support form others. He was the face not necessarily the brains. South africans should learn to put their emotions aside and recognise the facts as they are.

    Mbeki’s govt gave SAFA all the support needed to win the bid. Thats a fact that shouldnt be ignored. Interestingly all has been forgotten.

  10. michael michael 16 June 2010

    Well, I’m in the USA at the moment, and the level of attention on SA is crazy: every Coke can carries the FIFA logo – every match is talked about in the streets. Also, the negative strike stories, the international hate of the vuvuzela also rise to the surface, but overall it’s like a super-huge advert for SA, really placing us in the minds of the world, for better or for worse.

  11. skumbuzo skumbuzo 17 June 2010

    Traps, very good point. Thanks for the reminder and thanks to the former Prezs.

    @Adrian Galley

    There’s nothing wrong with Traps’s arithmatic. That’s how television viewership is measured.

  12. Alpheus Sipho Lukhele Alpheus Sipho Lukhele 17 June 2010

    Thanks for this!

  13. L. L. 17 June 2010

    I disagree that this is not the time to strike. It is the perfect time. Excellent time to negotiate new arrangements and all that exposure….

  14. Brian Brian 17 June 2010

    In retrospect,their efforts towards the fruition of this dream are undeniable….

  15. LubabaloN LubabaloN 17 June 2010

    Remind again! What role did the muderous De Klerk play?

  16. Mosotho Mosotho 17 June 2010

    Mike, o opile kgomo lenaka, meaning you hit it right on the spot..Bull’s Eye!! President Mbeki was never understood and will never be understood by mediocrity lovers in our country, those who call themselves revolutionaries, who continuously push the agenda of struggle politics and forever reminding us of the past as if our whole progress depends on that, who still toyi toyi for earnings they dont deserve and who still relish in the sorrows and skin politics of the past. Mbeki represented a new era of fresh politics that promoted hardwork, great economic ideas and concepts that got the opportunistic struggle revolutionaries into panic, and productivity that lazy labour union members will never promote. The country will remember him one day with regret when crisis hits, and this is inevitable looking at the current status of things. Enough said…watch the space!!

  17. godfrey khoele godfrey khoele 17 June 2010

    I always thought that this column is about sharing adeas and of course constructively criticising what needs to be criticized with an aim of building a well informed citizenry. But it looks like I was wrong in my thinking. The question Im having is, why don’t we learn to stick to topics in our responses rather than just writing for the sake of it? I am saying this in relation to comments made by NZS and MLH,to me they are way out of line from this topic, we learn just so little if nothing from their comments. Let me not waste much of the afforded opportunity by sticking to the non-essential of the above, but would like to say that Trapido your observation is quite spot-on although I would like to be frank and say it doesn’t show the things that can show why for the two. For Mr Mbeki I would at least have an idea of the great support he gave to many of the initiatives including the assurance he displayed on behalf of his government i.e. government infrastructural investments etc. I think for Mr De Klerk it’s just asking too much. Sometimes we need to leave the monotonous balancing act that many are accustomed to in SA. I think people like the Late Mr Stix Morewa, Kaizer Motaung, Trikamjee et al. Let’s learn to give credit where it’s truely due.

  18. CHUMA CHUMA 17 June 2010

    You are right, it’s now that some of the lessons taught to us as Africans (and by that I mean both black and white) are coming back to me! TM, South African owes a lot to you.

  19. tottie tottie 18 June 2010

    Its about me, me and only me. We use every social event to promote the self. The difference between the current “me” and that of the Afrikaners is that the latter viewed “me” as the Afrikaner volk. We use it to promote the individual. Funerals, weddings, accidents, strikes, marches, all these are now platforms to promote the self.

    I can’t imagine any place where individuals have to climb on the coffins of the dead to propel themselves to the high positions.

  20. Rose Morrow Rose Morrow 18 June 2010

    Ten out of ten again Michael. Mbeki is my president of choice – by far! “A lot of good can be achieved if one is not too concerned about who gets the credit”! He fits right into that little quote – he did so much but never shouted his mouth of and never ever stooped to the level of becoming a spin doctor like so many of the current leadership. Viva Mbeki – thank you to him and deKlerk for their efforts in bringing the World Cup to RSA…. if only we could all enjoy this “ice cream for the nation” without strikes and protests. In some ways we have become a very self centred nation………. Does the end justify the means? Not in the case of the security guards and bus drivers – they can never justify their actions to the country trying to look the world in the eye with pride and joy. But you always get the party poopers!

  21. Mbee EE Mbee EE 18 June 2010

    The highest tree catches the most wind. To break it down, Mr Mbeki was a prez who worked hard and wanted so badly to change. Therefore, because he worked so hard, there was as much left to criticism. I thank you for acknowledging this great mind and talent from our own soil. Let us not forget what he did for SA and Africa as a whole. My former Prez, from someone young who is still trying to come to grips with this South Africa and its idiosyncrasies, I honour, respect and wish to have a mind as great as yours when I grow up. I am a proud South African because of men like you.


  22. Skipper Skipper 21 June 2010

    this new administration is there to destroy every achievement undre TM , and everything that is bad is becouse of him and the good one is MADIBA or Zuma , this is immatured becouse ordinary South African knows what is going on

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