||Patrick Bond The Mercury (Eye on Civil Society)
11 May 2010
Of course, South Africa will have the party of our (post-April 1994) lives, a month from today, and of course it is a huge honour to host the most important sporting spectacle short of the Olympics.
And all the ordinary people who have worked so hard deserve gratitude and support, especially the construction workers, cleaners, municipal staff, health-care givers and volunteers who will not receive due recognition.
But let us also be frank about balancing psychological benefits against vast socio-economic and political costs, for we will hear about the latter from plenty of others, who will see us at our best and worst.
Durban’s worst face is usually to be found at city hall, where time and time again, municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe bans community protests, compelling urgent court interdicts against his vicious police.
As eNews journalist Morgan Collins learned on his way to jail while trying to cover the nurses’ strike six weeks ago, cop-stamping on constitutional rights has become a bad habit.
On Friday, the national security apparatus told Parliament it would beat Sutcliffe in democracy-removal, throwing a 10km “cordon” around Moses Mabhida Stadium. We are to be shocked and awed by “air sweeps by fighter jets, joint border patrols with neighbouring countries, police escorts for cruise ships and teams of security guards with ‘diplomat’ training”. The aim is to “prevent domestic extremism, strike action and service delivery protests”.
How ridiculous can the Pretoria regime get? The ANC’s trade union allies in the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union had perfectly valid reasons to yesterday begin the biggest strike in SA history, as they describe it, as do demonstrators victimised by Durban’s corrupt housing contractors and by shack fires caused by electricity disconnections in turn caused by obscene municipal and Eskom price hikes.
To equate non-violent protest with “extremism” is old South Africa paranoia at its worst. According to South Durban Community Environmental Alliance leader Des D’Sa: “On Youth Day, June 16, Durban citizens will test this with a peaceful march to city hall. Sutcliffe’s order to kick fisher folk off Durban’s beaches last Thursday, with arrests and police violence, is the last straw.”
Much of the blame for Durban’s commercialised democracy-free zone goes to executives of Zurich-based Fifa, especially its president, Sepp Blatter.
To illustrate, a few dozen metres away from where poor people are now denied their source of fish and income, expensive imported (German) marquee tents apparently require erection by a German construction company. And Fifa gets sole occupation of Moses Mabhida Stadium, even on the 75 percent of days that soccer won’t be played, keeping the facility off-limits to visitors. Their anticipated profit: more than R25 billion.
Fifa sponsorship is hazardous to this economy, as witnessed by ANC MP Shiaan-Bin Huang’s import wizardry. Teenage workers at Shanghai Fashion Plastic Products and Gifts have been paid just R23 a day to manufacture Zakumi mascot dolls, which could easily have been produced in KZN’s idle factories. (Huang is from fast de-industrialising Newcastle.)
Danny Jordaan predicted in 2005 that 400 000 people would visit. In reality, there will be half as many, and the hospitality industry’s market is glutted after a third of rooms booked by Fifa’s Match agency were cancelled.
South Africa’s 2003 Bid Book estimate of between R1.1bn and R8.4bn rose in October 2006 to a final projected R10bn and now, with insane escalations, R40bn.
At a UKZN community class on economic justice last Saturday, a student pointed out that if Greece’s hosting of the 2004 Olympics was partially responsible for the latest episode of world financial crisis and a e500 billion (4.8 trillion) bailout, South Africa - with our untenable $80bn (R589bn) foreign debt - may get the same treatment.
At least two political assassinations allegedly associated with 2010 contracts occurred in Mpumalanga province’s host city, Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit). More than 1 000 pupils demonstrated against Mbombela Stadium when schools displaced in the construction process were not rebuilt.
Other World Cup-related protests were held against Durban and Cape Town municipal officials by informal traders, against Joburg officials by Soccer City neighbours in impoverished Riverlea township, against construction companies by workers, and against national bureaucrats by four towns’ activists, who are attempting to relocate provincial borders to shift their municipalities to a wealthier province (as did the Khutsong community last year, from North-West to Gauteng).
Sadly, we will probably have little to cheer on the field, as Bafana Bafana fell in the global rankings from 81st in early 2010 to 90th today.
No wonder: global soccer apartheid means that the best African players are sucked up into European clubs with little opportunity to prepare for such events.
The local winners in the process are not footballers nor even rugby teams, which municipal officials fruitlessly hope will one day fill the white-elephant stadiums, but large corporations and politically connected black “tenderpreneurs”.
Asking if Mabhida’s legacy is an “arch of hope” or instead a “yoke of debt”, journalist Sam Sole has named the fat cats in a recent report.
Primary contractor Ibhola Lethu beneficiaries include Craig Simmer (whose previous employers were the crashed bus privatiser Remnant Alton and Point development flop Dolphin Whispers); the Broederbonder firm Bruinette Kruger Stoffberg; and Group 5/WBHO with Tokyo Sexwale’s and Bulelani Ngcuka’s Mvelaphanda group subcontracting a major electricity deal to Vivian Reddy’s Edison Power.
The tenderpreneurship strategy is profoundly corrupt, according to Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of former president Thabo. “It was a matter of co-option, to co-opt the African nationalist leaders by enriching them privately,” he has said.
But as hype fades and protests become more insistent, local elites will realise their mistake in hosting these games in such a wasteful, arrogant manner. They will learn what we already know: profiteering by business and genuine joy associated with the world’s most loved sport are mutually incompatible.
(Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society.)