Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The 2010 FIFA World Cup came and went like a thief in the night. It brought with it misery for the people and left in its wake a tsunami of debt, destitution and increased structural inequalities that have seen the country’s poor continue to be subjected to eating the crumbs that fall off from the master’s table, the master being the elite minority who benefited from the hosting of this extravagant and unnecessary event. In this essay, I seek to highlight how the World Cup left South Africa poorer than it was before. But more than that, I seek to highlight how the media and the South African government legitimised the hosting of this luxury sporting event in the midst of an economic recession and how the people of African continent in its entirety, became victims of this propaganda.
In an article titled “A PRELIMINARY EVALUATION OF THE IMPACT OF THE 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP” the author of South Africa’s World Cup: A Legacy for Whom?, the activist critically dissects the implications of the World Cup and how it has increased the structural and systematic class stratification of the country. He focuses on the economic impact of the Cup on the communities and the South African labour tank in its entirety. Nearly two years after this event, it is necessary that we all take a moment to reflect on the legacy that the World Cup left behind.
The indications that the 2010 FIFA World Cup would be a problem for South Africa were evident from the very beginning. In 2008, the world was plunged into one of the biggest crises of capitalism since the Wall Street crush of 1929. This financial crisis began in the United States of America in 2006 with the beginning of the subprime mortgage crisis. One other cause of this financial crisis, according to global investor and Economist, George Soros, is “a dependence on short-term funding markets and international trade imbalances” (2008). This financial crisis led to the inevitable collapse of the global economies and affected mainly developing countries, of which South Africa is one. According to a report published by COSATU in The Shopsteward in 2011, more than 200 000 jobs in both the formal and the informal sectors were lost in the country. According to Cottle (2010) the construction sector alone shed more than 111 000 jobs in this period leading up to and after the World Cup.
 The costs of the Cup were also a point that should have been critically assessed and understood. While the costs for managing the event were covered by broadcasting rights, corporate partners who fund FIFA and both local and global corporate supporters, the South African government had to foot the bulk of the costs using public funds. These included transport, telecommunications infrastructure, health services, safety and security and the protection and enforcement of rights of global partners as well as international and local sponsors (Cottle, 2010). This should have been a clear indication of the inevitable economic instability that the Cup would bring, for any critical mind would have come to the correct conclusion that a developing country recovering from a financial crisis would not have had the financial capacity to simultaneously cover the costs of the event and continue to address the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality that is characteristic of all Third World countries, particularly those with a young democracy like South Africa.
All these were factors were ignored by the government. In fact, the South African government resumed a role of being the subordinate to FIFA, allowing the megacorporation to dictate the terms of engagement and chart a path on SA territory. This reality was experienced sharply by the working-class majority that found itself completely marginalised from the economic activities of the Cup. Informal traders were not allowed to sell anything at designated World Cup stadiums. A strict law was imposed that prevented any vendors from lining the streets within 5km radium of the venues. Another group of people that was hard-hit by FIFA’s working-class marginalisation was the hundreds of locals who had used their life-long investments to build or renovate their homes so that they could host international soccer fans, a move that was initially encouraged by the government as a tool to make the public believe that the Cup would serve to benefit all citizens of the country. These people lost hundreds of thousands of rands individually, money that they had laboured for very hard for very many years, most of them in an environment that was designed for their human retardation, as the workplace under the system of Capitalism often is. But beyond that, the ordinary people could not even afford to watch the tournament live, because of the ridiculous amounts for both the tickets and transportation. The people of South Africa, who had been convinced that the 2010 FIFA World Cup was a blessing of the gods, were subjected to watching from the side-lines, on television and radio. And as if this inhumanity itself was not adequate, our people were removed from their communities in Mbombela (Mpumalanga) and Khayelitsha (Cape Town), the former to make way for the construction of Mbombela Stadium and the latter to “clear” off the highway leading from the Cape Town International Airport into the city. In Mbombela, a primary school was razed to its very foundation and children were forced to go into schools already having infrastructural problems. (Smith, 2010)
The only people who benefitted from the 2010 FIFA World Cup are the capitalists of the world, those who already have millions and billions in their coffers.  Multinational corporations like Anglo American, Avis, Bavaria Motor Works (BMW), SABMiller and Adidas, were the big winners. Others include the likes of Thornton Grant, one of the world’s biggest accounting consultancy firms, which was commissioned to do extensive research on the feasibility of South Africa hosting the World Cup back in 2003. Its declaration that the tournament would “create significant direct and indirect economic benefits for the country” (2003) must have sat well with the mafia of Zurich (FIFA headquarters).
Two years after the vuvuzelas and Waka Waka have stopped reverberating in the minds of a nation once caught in a collective state of euphoria, “South Africans have returned to their “normal” lives”, as Cottle so aptly puts it. For those in Sandton, Constantia, Umhlanga Ridge, Beacon Valley or Sabie, that life is a life of vulgar opulence and crass materialism, where the worth of a human-being is measured by the amount in his bank accounts and the number of properties that he owns. For those in Alexander, Gugulethu, Lekazi, Kwa-Mashu, Mdantsane or Soweto, that life is one where making ends meet is a herculean task, where the source of the next meal is never known. The reality of the situation is that for this group of people, aluta continua. The struggle continues…

Cottle, E. 2010. A Preliminary Evaluation of the Impact of the 2010 FIFA World CupTM in South Africa.
Smith, D. 2010. Nelspruit’s brutal inequalities test World Cup legacy. The Guardian. London (UK). [Online]. Available:
Soros, G. 2008. “The worst market crisis in 60 years”. Financial Times. London (UK)

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