||The eagerly awaited 2010 Fifa World Cup Preliminary Draw to be held in Durban on Sunday 25 November, takes place in the backdrop of countrywide service delivery protests, a damning report of a study by the liberal South African Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) revealing that South Africa’s poor have gotten poorer since 1996, and, most notably, amidst strikes by construction workers at various 2010 related sites.
From the tone of the extravagant tax money funded media adverts, for the KwaZulu-Natal Premier, S’bu Ndebele, and the Mayor of Ethekwini/Durban Municipality-to host one of the semi-finals during the World Cup - Christmas has never come so early. “We are not going to the world”, an excited Ndebele has proclaimed, “but the world is coming to us.” Undoubtedly, the excitement over 2010 and the “204 nations to descend on Durban” on Saturday for the draw, is largely premised on the garbage that the ANC government, in collusion with its partner in crime against the poor, big business, has been feeding the public in massive dosages, starting in the very early days of the bidding campaign, that economic benefits arising from the ‘2010 project’ is the panacea to our unemployment and poverty catastrophes. This nonsense has been swallowed by the unsuspecting public, given the widespread myth of the “trickle down” effect of the free market promoted via the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (asgiSA). Unprecedented growth in recent years has failed to alleviate poverty and unemployment and this should be the ultimate proof that the greedy capitalists have no intention to “share.”
Like a fool in love with a cheating partner, the ignorant and desperate poor, have been cajoled into rallying behind 2010. And anyone perceived to be undermining the ‘national effort’ to make the World Cup a “resounding success” risks being dismissed as ‘unpatriotic.’ Furthermore, questioning the profligacy that the project represents, amounts to sleeping with the ‘racist enemy’ that, in spite of numerous assurances by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee, annoying, keeps doubting South Africa’s ‘capabilities’ and ‘readiness.’ In neo-liberal times, being ‘patriotic’ means unquestioning devotion to the government’s anti poor agenda and the accompanying doomed “Age of hope” ‘Gospel.’
While Mbeki, in his weekly online letter, has criticised the findings of the SAIRR’s study which identifies unemployment as the major contributing factor to worsening poverty and has questioned the motive of the study, many critics of the Growth Employment and Redistribution (Gear) macro-economic programme, aware of the dire reality on the ground, have no reason to doubt its credibility. Mbeki’s denialist and defensive attitude is typical. To the detriment of many HIV infected persons, driven by undying loyalty to neo-liberalism, he has also disputed the link between the virus and the Aids pandemic, questioned the accuracy of shocking unemployment and crime statistics. His recent defense of Gear poses the question which ‘developmental’ state is the government envisaging? Under Gear, a ‘developmental’ state, in the truest sense of the word, is simply not possible. And Mbeki, who holds a Masters degree in Economics from the prestigious Sussex University, ought to know this. Should he also not be aware that not a single country in the world has ever managed to “halve poverty and unemployment” in eight years while implementing the kind of economic policies his government is vehemently implementing?
That the bourgeoisified Mbeki, who interacts with the jobless, the homeless and the hungry, only around election time and during the government’s top-down ‘izimbizo’, without any deliberation, has dismissed the report as ‘mischievous’ and not a true reflection of the situation, is also further proof that his complacent and out of touch administration has no intention to divert from the “non-negotiable” disastrous economic strategy which has also received severe criticism from left elements within the Tripartite Alliance.
In view of Mbeki’s angry reaction to the ‘misinformed’ report, perhaps he should then explain the root cause for the prevalent discontent manifesting itself in nationwide service delivery protests and strikes. If the poor were happy, why have so many destitute communities bought into self styled ‘socialist’ Zwelinzima Vavi and Blade Nzimande’s baloney that presidential hopeful, polygamist Jacob Zuma, whose middle name Gedleyihlekisa implies ‘Master of deception’, is the key to the realization of the elusive “a better life for all” and “the people’s contract to create jobs and fight poverty?” In light of Zuma’s severely discredited image, serious dissatisfaction with the status quo and desperation are the only reasonable explanation why he has, in collusion with, inter alia, Vavi and Nzimande, managed to deceive the masses.
Indeed, the ‘JZ project’ in the current context of a populist Umshini Wami singing Zuma, is a product of ‘Mbekism’ and the associated anti poor agenda and the centralist leadership style. If one juxtaposes Zuma’s remarks in the dock during his rape trial with South Africa’s appalling rape figures, high levels of violence against women, shocking HIV/Aids statistics, and serious allegations of corruption facing him, in essence, he should be ridiculed and humiliated, as comedian Pieter Dirk Uys and cartoonist Zapiro persistently do, to the extent that he is even ashamed to show his sorry backside in public, let alone run for the presidency!
The industrial action, triggered by unsafe working conditions and slave wages, by workers at the Moses Mabhida Stadium construction site in Durban, in Port Elizabeth, a strike earlier on by workers at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, forced removal of shack dwellers ahead of the tournament and the harassment of street vendors, apartheid era-Verwoerdian-style, the list is endless, are early signs that, contrary to statements by politicians and the capitalists, 2010 is not about the poor but profit maximisation. Undoubtedly, even its very “resounding success” is rested entirely upon further exploitation of the downtrodden in the hospitality, transport, aviation, banking, retail, tourism, security and the sex industries, amongst others.
With allegations that police Commissioner and President of Interpol, Jackie Selebi, is deep in the pockets of drug/human trafficking mafia kingpins mounting, it is now clear why he has proposed the ‘decriminalisation’ of sex work during 2010. And considering the seriousness of allegations against Selebi, it is, arguably, more accurate to conclude that his continued wearing of the police uniform constitutes a big insult to all working class members of the police service who have been killed in “the line of duty” by the likes of his ‘friends’, finish and Klaar!
Therefore, all progressive forces, in this era of scandalous denialism and blatant lies by our rulers, should embark on the only genuinely patriotic act, in as far as the Word Cup is concerned, and use the upcoming Preliminary Draw to mobilize and raise public awareness around the wasteful nature of 2010, and to support the call by the trade union movement to extent the strike by exploited workers to all 2010 related sites.
Many commentators in the bourgeois press see the ongoing action by workers as constituting a “crisis” because the deadline for completion of all construction activities is just two years away. The real crisis, however, is that in a so-called ‘developmental’ state workers in the “booming” construction sector, enjoying no benefits whatsoever, who put in many times more physical effort, are paid peanuts whilst the share holders and senior management are smiling all the way to the bank.
And while parliament has called on the public to “deepen the debate” in 2007, Mbeki, who should be leading by example appears to have no intention of engaging in vigorous debate with South Africans. Instead of responding to countless valid questions that have been posed in the recent past, our “intellectual” President has resorted to cowardice tactics of only answering critics once a week, online. Mbeki’s praise singers, including alleged plagiarist Ronald Suresh Roberts, author of Fit to Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki, Smuts Ngonyama and other sycophants would want us to believe that the “once-weekly rant”, is a form of engaging in debate and interacting with the public. Nonsense! The majority of Mbeki’s constituency, to whom he is accountable, does not have access to computers, let alone internet connection.
But, does the neo-liberal Commander-in-Chief, turned Denialist-in-Chief, even care?
Ngonyama is a full time postgraduate student on the Howard College campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and a member of the Socialist Student Movement (SSM). He writes in his personal capacity.