Thursday, July 1, 2010

South Africa: Don't Try to Steal Fifa's Show - Just Deliver

South Africa: Don't Try to Steal Fifa's Show - Just Deliver

Meshack Mabogoane

30 June 2010


Johannesburg — The self-congratulation that has erupted from the regime around its ability to deliver in the World Cup a world-class event, and the fact that this has been framed as an indication of the soundness of SA and presumably the government itself, is all too revealing.

The presence of the "world" in SA, in full view of international media, has been presented as the culmination of the end of isolation, a sign of the country's normalcy, while at the same time feeding heavily into the propaganda of a regime under siege.

While shining in reflected glory and hiding its hideous failures, it conveniently eclipses the legacy of all those who laid the foundations and built the country to such levels. SA has long had the capacity to deliver world-class events - a critical mass of experience and facilities emerged long ago, as evidenced by rugby, cricket and other mega international events more than a decade ago.

The exhilaration reveals anxieties about the widespread and mounting problems due mainly to the regime's misrule, dereliction and ineptitude, which have made the country regress from the African National Congress (ANC)-led contrived pariah status to an ANC-engendered detritus.

It is business unusual, as the regime and society are in shambles. Hence such an event has come as a respite.

A successful event is guaranteed with Fifa, which is a long-established international entity; a lesser performance would have brought accusations of "racism" against Fifa.

Pride and pleasure are natural in hosting such a rare and joyful world spectacular; these are decent and almost obligatory responses. But mostly this country deserves to pride itself on its long-established world-class infrastructure and economy, which made this event possible, and which survived international attempts at destruction then called by those - including sanctimoniously meddling clerics - now hilariously jiving and basking in stolen glory.

Fifa would never have brought its quadrennial jamboree without the full satisfaction that high standards would be met. This necessary wherewithal was the cumulative effect of decades of development made by the past governments, private enterprise, social and sports actors. These had been initiated and piloted solely for national development and benefit - not world entertainment and profit - and built with adequate and self-generated resources, not loans and international handouts.

It is not the magic of Nelson Mandela that enabled SA to host the World Cup . The belief of Sepp Blatter in Madiba's saintliness would not have persuaded the Swiss banks as they accept cheques not creeds, guarantees not goodwill. Fifa was convinced by the bankable prospects made by the mainly apartheid SA, which Fifa barred under political pressure from the very people who have turned the country into a wasteland. The rhetoric about "no normal international sports in an abnormal country" would have been most applicable in currently prostrate SA.

But a government that has failed to provide basic services to an impoverished and angry populace shamelessly proclaims victory and pride. Its propaganda sprang up to seize a scintillating whirlwind and obscure deepening crises spawned by its misrule and malice towards its citizens.

Previously Fifa was plunged into politics largely by the ANC-driven sports boycott campaigns. Now Fifa is dragged in again for political ends. The event has taken on added fantasy with sports invoked to build a damaged society and splintered nation.

The regime is trying to steal the show from Fifa, which is responsible for the lion's share of the tournament's success . Instead, the government should translate this demonstration of delivery into much simpler national deliveries in addition to good governance. These need the political will, moral capacity and practical commitment so evidently lacking in the incumbent leadership. The country is already inured to a regime that has demonstrated negligence, irresponsibility and destruction. Once the soccer tournament is gone, Fifa, like balls and skills, will be needed on political grounds. Current top players have had many yellow cards; it's red ones next.

Mabogoane is a freelance writer.

Hat tip SAS


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