||Watching World Cup preparations roil this society is like picking up a
large stone in a neglected garden, under which a myriad of mainly
parasitical lifeforms jostle, breaking from maniacal feeding upon one
another so as to scramble from the harsh sunlight.
The dominant creature is, of course, the Fédération Internationale de
Football Association, Fifa, and it is so far eating everything in sight.
Sepp Blatter's profit police are out in force already, allied with local
cops, intimidating not only little people trying to eke out survival
from commerce, crafts and even fishing, but also the largest South
African media organisations.
According to Wits journalism professor Anton Harber this is part of a
general takeover: Fifa has banished those people who try to make a
living around the stadiums, they have made us divert development money
into fancy stadiums, and we have had to give up all sorts of rights for
the month they will be in control of our cities.
Rhodes media professor Guy Berger calls Fifa's power an artificial and
autocratic fiat. It is simply stupid to regulate for information
scarcity in an age that has unprecedented information potential -
potential even for Fifa itself. Such authoritarian backwardness is
hardly surprising, however. It comes from a body that in 2010 is still
forcing journalists to agree not to bring it into disrepute as a
condition for getting accreditation.
Fifa's definition of disrepute is writing anything that negatively
affects the public standing of the Local Organising Committee or Fifa.
(Right then, here we go.)
The South African National Editors' Forum has complained, but the danger
was evident earlier this month when SABC spokesman Kaiser Kganyago
explained why the excellent documentary Fahrenheit 2010 by Durban
film-makers Craig Tanner and Michael Cross will not be screened: Our
job is obviously to promote the World Cup and flighting anything that
can be perceived as negative is not in our interest.
Temporary insanity must be responsible for signatures on rip-off deals
with Fifa, especially by then-president Thabo Mbeki and Durban city
manager Michael Sutcliffe. The latter remains in full-on denialist mode:
It is not fair to say that the entire city has been hijacked by Fifa.
(Actually, no one said that.)
But even his own World Cup project manager, Julie-May Ellingson, told
the Sunday Tribune that because of the deal Sutcliffe signed, ratepayers
will be penalised since Durban is violating a major provision, a
no-construction clause. You cannot shut down the construction industry
for a month, complained Ellingson. But if you read the (Host City
Agreement) contract literally, that's what it says.
Dig all you like under this World Cup rock in search of ubuntu grubs and
worms that might nurture Mabhida Stadium's soil. Instead there's only a
vicious hierarchy of pests, predators and parasitoids. Municipal
bureaucrats and hoteliers are already at each other's throats, both
furious at the multi-headed Fifa hydra for scooping up all the nutrients.
Sutcliffe once again infuriated both labour and capital in a Sunday
Tribune interview, one moment blaming hospitality-sector workers for
higher labour costs than Europe (yeah right), and the next moment
blaming hotels and B&Bs for greed over the World Cup, and those hotels
should not be complaining because they deserve the low occupancy rate.
In reality, Fifa's hospitality agency, Match, vastly overstated - by at
least 100 percent - the space they would need, and then last week dumped
thousands of vacant rooms on a glutted market.
Fifa's Blatter and Match's Philippe Blatter (surprise, Sepp's nephew)
told the South African organisers that 450 000 visitors would come, but
it seems that a maximum of only 300 000 will arrive, including just 11
300 from the continent of Africa, 76 percent below expectations. (Recall
a year ago, the 30th annual Tourism Indaba at the ICC declared its
central campaign theme for 2010: This is Africa's World Cup.)
With vacancy rates of 60-80 percent, Durban Chamber of Commerce and
Industry tourism committee chair Mike Jackson describes the mood as one
of total dismay. Alan Gooderson of the Gooderson Leisure Group
complained: They've cocked everything up... It's shocking how we have
been conned by Match.
Likewise, ordinary workers were misled into thinking they would benefit
from manufacturing opportunities associated with World Cup
paraphernalia, but as Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesman Patrick
Craven ruefully concluded: Local companies have lost out, Chinese
companies have emerged as big winners.
Residents, too, will suffer, especially if they are working class and
need treatment at Addington.
As the Mail & Guardian observed last week: Fifa's guidelines for
designated hospitals around the country - which include keeping wards
half-empty - will result in long-term patients being removed from their
beds and shifted to facilities elsewhere. Routine referrals to major
specialist hospitals have already been curtailed, if not stopped, until
after the World Cup, leaving hundreds of patients without care for the
next two months.
Acclaimed British sports journalist Andrew Jennings, author of Foul!,
has documented in painful detail the abuse of host countries. A third of
Fifa's executive are involved in bribery and corruption, ticket rackets
and diversion of funds, Jennings says. South Africa bent over and let
Fifa have their way. Officials and the government have sold South Africa
down the river: 'Bye Africa, bye suckers!'
But now the suckers are getting angry. In Cape Town, the SA Football
Association's provincial president, Norman Arendse, told the Mail &
Guardian a fatal top-down approach has left the grassroots with mere
In a Joburg court last week, Meshack Mabalane testified that his
employment by Height Safety International was a Black Economic
Empowerment fronting scam.
Anyone admiring Mabhida's beautiful fa231ade should know that behind it
worked a construction company headed by former special forces operative
Johan du Toit, who lives a life of luxury while Mabalane - an owner of
20 percent of Height on paper for BEE purposes - was paid less than R8
000 a month. Mabalane told the court: My relationship with Johan,
despite being a director and shareholder, was one of master and servant.
Ripped-off servants are revolting against exploitative masters, as
labour's strike wave suggests. Efforts by Sutcliffe and municipal
commerce official Philip Sithole to thwart the centenary anniversary of
the Early Morning Market were foiled by traders supported by the Legal
Resources Centre, creating a superb victory vibe last Wednesday at
The market traders' success has empowered fisherfolk to fight back.
Yesterday they began disobeying Sutcliffe's banning order that last week
kicked them off several piers across the Golden Mile, where they
desperately work for their families' survival.
And on June 16, Durban civic groups are considering a Youth Day
celebration even against government's no protest dictates, for losing
democracy itself under the World Cup rock would be a hard place no one
wants to go, just because Fifa says so.
Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society.