We can still salvage our battered reputation

The recent tragic violence against foreign African nationals brought out the worst in some of us and brought out the best in many fellow South Africans.

The recent tragic violence against foreign African nationals brought out the worst in some of us and brought out the best in many fellow South Africans.

The deeply regrettable violence led the country's compassionate moral leader, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, to apologise to the world on behalf of us all.

Many other religious, civic and political leaders not only made statements condemning the attacks that claimed lives and property, but provided shelter and support.

This is a matter that the 2010 World Cup Organising Committee has had to deal with, especially at the Fifa Congress in Australia where Danny Jordaan, the CEO of the committee, gave assurances about safety in the country and lambasted the attacks on foreigners.

Newspapers and radio stations made enquiries about the effect this violence had on the preparations for the tournament.

Our position remains very clear; we condemn the violence and we are confident that this hugely embarrassing tragedy that befell us as a nation and caused the country so much pain will be brought under control speedily.

We are also encouraged by the response of the thousands of ordinary citizens as well as communities that have provided support for the affected foreign nationals.

Earlier this week, our sponsors and partners, FNB announced that they will put money to help the displaced while another partner, MTN indicated they would do the same. We are pleased about this. In the meantime, the authorities, especially in Gauteng, are addressing some of the causes of the violence while dealing with those who instigated the violence. Obviously, long-term solutions would have to be found and the best way is to investigate the underlying causes and respond appropriately.

Already, some of the impoverished communities where the violence broke out are complaining that whereas it is commendable that the victims of the violence are being provided with material support and shelter, their situation is not being dealt with at all. It is very important that as a society, especially the local authorities, we respond to this concern fairly and very quickly.

If left unattended, it may lead to further and more serious problems in the future.

We have been scarred and we have been shocked by this turn of events but still we have an opportunity to salvage our reputation as a country.

The World Cup offers us an opportunity to make true our promise of delivering an African event.

First, as already indicated, we can and will, together with our partners, pledge solidarity with the victims of this violence. At the same time we must play a role in promoting development through sport in these impoverished informal settlements.

One such initiative is the 20 centres for 2010 by Fifa, which is going to establish five of these multipurpose centres in South Africa and 15 in other parts of the African continent.

After discussions with other role-players, including the department of foreign affairs and sponsors, the Organising Committee intends involving school children from other African countries in the schools campaign we launched recently.

The schools campaign is very important in the promotion of South African values based on human rights and Fifa values of fair play and anti-racism.

Beyond these campaigns is the spirit of the World Cup itself, which is a celebration of friendship and humanity across the globe.