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By Ido Lekota | Apr 01, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

AFTER the announcement on May 15 2006 that South Africa would host the 2010 Fifa World Cup, I had a dream.

AFTER the announcement on May 15 2006 that South Africa would host the 2010 Fifa World Cup, I had a dream.

In my dream I saw South Africa featuring in the opening game with one of the other 31 countries that have qualified for the tournament.

I saw the calabash-shaped Soccer City Stadium packed to capacity with South Africa's supporters blowing their vuvuzelas.

What also caught my eye was the theme that the whole event followed.

There was a strong South African cultural theme with local cultural performers entertaining the spectators before the big kick-off.

There was also a carnival atmosphere at the nearby Nasrec where big screen TV sets had been put up for those who could not make it into the stadium.

Beside the opportunity to watch the game, the crowds could also indulge in South African cuisine sold from the various food stalls set up in the Nasrec arena.

As it is, the opening 2010 World Cup game will be staged at Soccer City. But there will not be any cultural carnival at the nearby Nasrec.

No South Africans will be selling any of our traditional cuisine there.

Instead, within a radius of a kilometre from the stadium, the only food and beverages available will be McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Budweiser. This is in terms of Fifa rules.

When I related my dream to Professor Pitika Ntuli yesterday, he said it was driven by the fact that "South Africa has a very powerful culture which played a major role in our struggle for liberation".

The professor reminded me of the role cultural activists such as Wally Serote, Hugh Masekela, Mama Miriam Makeba, Caiphus Semenya, Letta Mbulu and Jonas Gwangwa played internationally to rally support for the struggle for liberation in this country.

It was also through events like the cultural boycott that South Africa could garner support from the international community against the evil system of apartheid.

I agree with Ntuli that, with the advent of democracy, hosting the World Cup was an opportunity for South Africa to showcase this important tool of struggle and unity called our culture.

The unfortunate reality is that we have let that opportunity slip through our fingers.

We have now become spectators of how Fifa is going to stage this world event on our doorstep.

Most of the blame must really be put on the doorstep of the Department of Arts and Culture. One would have expected that following the 2006 announcement there would have been a programme designed to showcase our strong culture to the world.

Such a programme should have been part of the build-up that was led by the Local Organising Committee (LOC).

For example, so far what we have to show to the world culturally is the "diski dance".

As to what stopped the Department of Arts and Culture from organising roadshows involving our cultural performers as part of the build-up, we do not know.

Ntuli has pointed out that in fact there was a task team that was supposed to have come up with some cultural programme.

The professor and several other cultural practitioners, including Sibongile Khumalo and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, were part of the team.

Apparently, it was disbanded by new Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana.

We now have a situation where the only cultural activity planned for the World Cup is a music festival organised by an American-based promotion company.

To the chagrin of our local artists, this promoting company has decided to include only two South African-based artists.

As expected, the artists are seeing red. In her response, the minister is now to meet the LOC to see how the situation can be rescued.

Unfortunately, whatever comes out of the meeting will amount more to a band-aid solution.

This is simply because we lacked the foresight to utilise a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show the world what we are really made of.

Including local artists in the June 10 festival will not erase the fact that we, as the host nation, have failed to take advantage of an opportunity that Fifa gave us to turn this World Cup into a real African event.

It is surprising that we continue to vow that South Africa will deliver "the best World Cup ever".

In fact, what would have made us deliver such a spectacular event would have been to showcase our strength as a multi-cultural society, and also turned into reality the dreams of our cultural practitioners who were eager to share in the spoils of the event.

Trying to get more South African and African artists to be featured at the June 10 festival is really like trying to close the stable after the horse has already bolted.

Sadly, this World Cup will be far from the African dream I had seen.


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