Does sa really need to host world cup?

Andile Mngxitama

Andile Mngxitama

Yesterday we reached the 500 days mark from the 2010 World Cup.

The world soccer tournament is much talked about, but little analysed. The ANC manifesto is claiming the tournament as one of its achievements in government. But we must ask: Do we really need the World Cup?

The bid blueprint document in the main stands on two pillars. Firstly, that it will serve as a catalyst for improving the conditions of the poor.

The second pillar aims to redesign apartheid cities to realise social integration through infrastructural development such as road networks, among other things.

But why do we need a tournament to address these historical legacies and backlogs? Is it not colonial mentality to redress 350 years of systematic discrimination and wanton destruction through hosting an expensive footballtournament?

Maybe we are hosting the World Cup to showcase the country. Again we need to ask, who is stands to benefit?

Frantz Fanon was correct in showing that the pitfalls of post-colonial black rulers lead to "tragic mishaps".

These mishaps are driven by a lack of vision and disdain for the people, hence our leaders end up setting up our countries as a "brothel of Europe".

This logic underpins the bid for the tournament. Some cities would be turned into brothels for Europe through the suspension of criminalising sex work. After the matches, police will continue to harass sex workers.

The tournament is going to turn our country into a big fun park with the comfort and safety and security that ordinary people can only dream of. Safety and security measures are driven by "state-of-the-art information and communications military technology", boosted by a fleet of 40 helicopters.

Courts will be available 24/7 and 31000 police officers will be deployed. Medical and emergency services are equally impressive. This in a country where thousands of children die yearly from lack of medical attention. All this for the benefit of Europeans.

The World Cup plays two more important roles: To get the nation drunk in celebration, instead of asking tough questions around reconstruction and development promises. The games will function as the new opium of the masses. And it will also bring massive wealth, but only to a few connected individuals - and to Fifa.

Evidence shows overwhelmingly that mega-events such as the World Cup do not in the main help the conditions of the poor, nor are they useful measures to bring about development. In fact, these mega-events have a tendency to be anti-poor, leading to evictions from the city. Also, most people cannot afford the goodies that come with the event: the food, transport and accommodation.

Property prices also shoot up, exacerbating the housing problems of the poor.

Furthermore, host cities have been saddled with massive bills, instead of economic gains.

Udesh Pillay, executive director of urban, rural and economic development at the Human Sciences Research Council, shows that in 1994 the US World Cup left some cities with bills in excess of $9 billion, instead of the envisaged gains. Pillay concludes that the economic effect of these mega-events is "variable, intangible and ambiguous at best".

Already South Africa has spent R28billion. We are R3,2billion over budget, the government has committed to spend a further R1,4billion to cover this extra cost and host cities will have to fork out the rest.

Now, where do the cities get their revenue? It is the water, electricity and rates bills that are going to increase. Many people are already unable to afford these basic commodities. There is a case to be made that the next generation will still be paying for this jamboree.

Envisaged benefits such as jobs and tourism have been proven to be elusive. Generally these mega-events create temporary low-paying jobs for locals.

When the soccer tournament is over, we will be sitting with major world-class stadia in a country that can't feed or educate its people. This is a tragic mishap, as we get our priorities mixed up in a quest to become a playground for Europe.

The truth is we do not need the World Cup and we never needed it. Politicians and their connections need it.

This we must say even at this late hour. One wished that the ANC would not gloat so much about the tournament because it's a negative achievement.

lThe writer is co-editor of Biko Lives! Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko.