FIFA and its sponsors are set to make billions from the upcoming World Cup in soccer. But it's doubtful that ordinary South Africans are going to benefit despite the billions in public funds that have been spent.
South Africa's national team, Bafana Bafana, can count on its fans' support
As the 2010 World Cup in soccer approaches, all of South Africa is bursting with excitement. The country is busy with final preparations for the kick-off on June 11. But many problems have also arisen for the people behind these preparations.
"Construction workers and their families are struggling to put bread on the table because they have not been provided with any kind of unemployment insurance," Eddie Cottle, coordinator of the Fair Games - Fair Play Campaign, told Deutsche Welle. The organization works to promote the rights and improve the working conditions of construction workers.
The 70,000 plus workers who were needed to build or upgrade stadiums are now unemployed. Still, unlike millions of less affluent South Africans, who can only dream of attending a World Cup game, the construction workers will each receive two free tickets from FIFA.
FIFA regulations hinder small merchants
Street vendors make up a large part of the informal sector in South Africa
Among those who will not be benefitting from the World Cup are many of the two million street vendors. From May to July 2010, they will not be able to profit from the World Cup because they will be excluded from the heart of the action - the 10 stadiums and fan parks.
Nkosinathi Paul Jikeka, a campaigner at StreetNet, an advocacy organization for street vendors, told Deutsche Welle these merchants will not be allowed to trade in exclusion zones - any area within 800 meters of the World Cup stadiums. A good number of vendors were even evicted from sites that are now home to some of the stadiums.
Just how many South Africans were evicted to make way for stadium construction varies, but estimates range from the hundreds to the lower thousands. Many, including schoolchildren, were affected when a school was destroyed, so that Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga could be built.
World Cup hype draws attention from NGOs
But the effects of the World Cup are not all bad.
"The World Cup came at the right time because the financial crisis would have been deeper had it not been for the jobs created in the construction industry," said Irene Lukassowitz, press manager at the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in Pretoria.
Children in Mamelodi take part in the GTZ soccer project
In addition, the focus of international media on South Africa has meant that the country has benefited from the attention of NGOs on development issues, including HIV/AIDS, gender equality, xenophobia, racism, crime and security, she said.
In 2007, using the hype generated by the World Cup, GTZ launched three programs in South Africa. It includes the Youth Development through Football (YDF) project, which uses soccer to motivate youths and educate them on gender issues, HIV/AIDS, drugs, crime and violence, environmental issues and unemployment. In fact, the program has not only helped young people in South Africa, it has also benefitted youth in Ghana, Rwanda, and five southern African countries.
According to Lukassowitz, more than 25,000 African boys and girls have benefited from the program so far. GTZ already used the YDF program during the May 2008 xenophobic attacks that left 62 dead in South Africa's townships. It helped educate youth on xenophobia and racism.
"It really worked because the children were able to create friendships on the pitch that lasted," Lukassowitz told Deutsche Welle.
Can soccer increase tolerance?
Lukassowitz is not the only one who feels that sports can increase tolerance. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, recently released a statement saying that the World Cup provided an opportunity "to enhance sport's tremendous potential to undermine racism, xenophobia and similar forms of intolerance in wider society."
Saturday's murder of the South African white supremacist leader, Eugene Terreblanche, has focused attention on simmering racial tensions in the country and illustrates the complexity of race relations there. It remains to be seen whether sport's ability to undermine racism or xenophobia can have a lasting effect on South African society.
"These sporting events always bring us together for that particular period," Nkosinathi Paul Jikeka from StreetNet said. "But when you go to work, you will see a white person managing the work place and a large army of black people being just laborers. That continues to remind us of the different racial dynamics in South Africa."
Author: Chiponda Chimbelu
Editor: Sabina Casagrande