THE government has spent billions of rand on making the 2010 World Cup a success, but will the soccer showcase benefit the majority of South Afri-cans?
This was the question debated by the country's three sharpest grade 12 pupils in a battle of the minds last week in Cape Town.
Bojosi Morule of Eunice High School in Free State, Charlotte de Fleur of Worcester Secondary School in Western Cape, and Kgaogelo Mokholwane of Steve Tshwete Secondary School in Gauteng competed for the title of national schools debating champion in the Western Cape legislature last week.
The grand finale, sponsored by Sanlam and the GCIS, was the result of a roller-coaster debating battle between Grades 10 and 11 pupils that started last year, with 266 participants from 30 districts head-butting in more than 30 sessions.
The theme for the debates was "Young people can play a key role in reducing poverty and building a better South Africa".
The nine semifinalists also met President Jacob Zuma at Tuynhuys on the eve of his State of the Nation Address and had a sneak preview of his speech.
The contestants were given five minutes to present their arguments. They fought to convince the judges and impress the house with witty arguments. They generally agreed that the World Cup was not going to benefit poor South Africans, particularly the rural folk.
Winner De Fleur scooped the top spot in the competition and won R6000 for herself and R10000 for her school. She said the soccer showdown, like the Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa in 1995, would be a success. But she asked: "Will Bafana Bafana make us proud? What does the World Cup mean for a girl who goes to school barefoot? What is it going to do for a mother who is struggling to put food on the table for her children?"
According to the judges, De Fleur won by 240 points, followed closely by Morule with 235 points and Mokholwane on 232 points.
Morule argued that the "largest piece of the cake will go to Fifa and its associates ... no small, medium and micro enterprises will benefit".
"It won't change the life of young men on the streets. Rural people won't benefit. The rich will get richer and the poor will remain miserable," Morule said.
But, she said in the short term the occasion would bring about the spirit of ubuntu and relief for the country "coming out of the recession".
Mokholwane argued that the Bus Rapid Transit project would render taxi operators and drivers jobless.
"Is the World Cup being marketed in rural areas?" he asked, arguing that the roads being upgraded would only benefit cities.
De Fleur told Sowetan that she hoped to study for a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at Stellenbosch University.
After winning, she said: "It was a long hard road to reach the finals. Research was not a problem. I read newspapers and watched the news all the time, even at midnight.
"I urge other pupils to get into debating. It opens your mind ... and there are a lot of possibilities."
Morule won R3500 for herself and R8000 for her school, while Mokholwane pocketed R2500 for himself and R6500 for his school.
An avid reader, Morule said she hoped to study for a degree in economics and political science.
Mokholwane said he wanted to pursue a career in biological science.