good, bad for some

Yvonne Nkosi smiled from under her pink cap, beaming at her contribution to South Africa's World Cup dreams as she applied silicone to a seating beam at the Nelspruit's new football stadium.

Yvonne Nkosi smiled from under her pink cap, beaming at her contribution to South Africa's World Cup dreams as she applied silicone to a seating beam at the Nelspruit's new football stadium.

"Before, I was working for peanuts," the 22-year-old said. "Somebody told me about work here, so I came. I want to see what's going to happen in 2010. I want to go to a game."

Wearing blue coveralls and steel-toed shoes, Nkosi said she went for a two-week course to learn how to apply silicone to joints.

She is among 1000 workers in the football complex being built in Nelspruit, a northeastern town also known as Mbombela.

On the roof, near the cranes and in the sky-boxes, men and women look like ants on a hill as they work feverishly to complete the stadium for Fifa by December.

About 20000 people are currently working on 10 stadiums across South Africa for the World Cup, a relief in a country where around 40 percent of the workforce is unemployed.

The municipality of Mbombela, which includes Nelspruit, expected that 17000 jobs would be created between 2005 and 2010 tied to road construction and the building of the 46000-seat stadium.

Between 60 and 70 percent of those jobs were going to people from around Nelspruit, which has more than 600000 people in the metro area and is the gateway to the world-famous Kruger wild game park.

Leon Botha, the stadium's chief engineer, said workers were first recruited from the nearby township of Matsafeni.

Labour groups praised the effort at employing locals but worried about their future after 2010.

"We appreciate that the local community was employed but part of the commitment was to develop and empower them. The stadium is a short-term project," said George Ledwaba, local representative of the National Union of Mineworkers.

"Any training should have a long term benefit," he said. "You not only learn how to push the wire, they should teach us how to electrify."

Wage disputes have also caused several strikes at the stadiums in Nelspruit, Cape Town and Durban.

"I don't even think about 2010 anymore, because too many things are going wrong," said 26-year-old Charles Chiloane, a welder who added that his euphoria at finding a job in 2007 has already worn off.

He's now working for R14,48 an hour, which is nearly double his starting salary.

Another grievance: for two years, the children of Matsafeni have been schooling in containers after their original school located at the foot of the construction site was turned into offices for the builders.

"They promised us a new school. We are still waiting for it," said community leader James Maseko, who added the community still needed improved roads, electricity and clean water.

The city has promised to finish the new school, but only after the World Cup.

"They should have built a college rather than a stadium," said Florence Phoku as she hoed the garden of her neat wooden house that neither has water nor electricity.

Outside the construction site, many people wait patiently every day in hope of work. - Sapa-AFP

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