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So what’s 2010 got to do with it?

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My visit to Johannesburg recently brought back memories of my mother, oddly enough, watching the construction that was taking place – the longsuffering looks on the strained faces of drivers who have long resigned themselves to being daily inconvenienced by the activities taking place to spruce up the city before the world comes charging in.

I was reminded of similar days when the family was expecting some important guest and the whole house would be turned upside down and we would be exiled outside with strict orders to steer clear of mama and her broomstick.
I always resented the disruption such visits brought to our lives – there would be the shifting of bedrooms and suddenly I would find myself sleeping on the floor while the ‘dignitary’ enjoy the luxury of my single bed and the comfort of mama’s best sheets and bed linen.

I somehow got the distinct impression that the average South African is hard pressed not to grumble at the inconvenience that the 2010 is bringing as the powers that be pull all the stops to present a sparkling clean image when America, Europe and the rest of the world descends upon them.

And all the while the media keeps harping on about the great ‘opportunities’ that 2010 presents to South Africans as a way of placating them, no doubt – in much the same way my mother used to gain our cooperation to be on our best behaviour by reminding us that the visitors would mean a delectable menu of dishes would be served.

Of course she would neglect to inform us that we would have to settle for the mouth-watering aromas that would waft towards our rooms to which we were confined – out of sight – while the VIPs were served in the family living room and even now I don’t know which was worse – missing my favourite TV shows or having leftovers when I had been promised a scrumptious meal.
So it is with the majority of South Africans whose cooperation has been bought by cleverly worded campaigns, messages, logos and slogans assuring them that they would all have a piece of the 2010 action.

The sad truth however, is that for many South Africans, the World Cup will not translate to any meaningful change in their lives – it will not bring them running water, it will not substitute candles for the brilliance of florescent light, it will not put food on their tables, or clothe their children’s backs or even turn their shacks into concrete palaces.

Recently after interviewing women at the various markets in Johannesburg with the aim of writing a story on how enthusiastic, excited and hopeful they were about capitalizing on 2010 Tanzanian journalist, Angel Navuri met with tales of woe.

“Food vendors cannot take the food to the stadiums because they have been forbidden to go there. It is certain that beneficiaries will be the big hotels, tour operators, and those who already have money will make more money. And the small traders have been excluded from engaging in any economic activity that would have seen them making any significant gains through the 2010,” reported Navuri.

Is it always the case that in order to be hospitable one must, for a time anyway, place the welfare of strangers ahead of their own family, or country men? What is that thing they say about charity beginning at home?
As a child I struggled to reconcile this tendency of being pushed to the periphery whenever more ‘special’ people deigned to visit us with being loved or appreciated in the family.

I mean I seemed pretty dispensable back then and the whims of those visitors took precedence over my needs making me wonder if mama perhaps loved them more than she did me.

But those were childhood musings, as a woman I have grown to resent the hypocrisy that forces us to always ‘keep up appearances’ going so far as to disown, reject and hurt our own.

So whose 2010 is it anyway?

It’s certainly not the market trader’s because they have been told to steer clear of the stadiums (we wouldn’t want the visitors to see them because they’re too plain and might mar the exquisite stadium facilities) instead space will be created to accommodate the fancy restaurants with gourmet chefs and first class menus.

It won’t be the fruit or airtime vendor because they would make the stadiums look shabby and the visitors cannot be expected to put up with the sight of people walking up and down earning an honest living – they can get airtime at the hotels or their taxi drivers can ferry them to the nearest state of the art shopping mall where they will be spared the ugly sights of Johannesburg’s filth lined dark alleys.

School will be closed for the whole month and people will be expected to put their lives on hold while the powers that be pander to the wishes of the Western visitors whose arrival will be expected to leave Joburg awash with freshly minted pounds, dollars, euros and francs amongst other currencies.

And the so called job opportunities and job creation resulting from the 2010 preparations smack of my mother’s subterfuge exaggerating the benefits that would accrue to us if we put up with a ‘little’ discomfort to make room for our esteemed guests.

Asked about how excited (who wouldn’t be right?) the women traders were about all the money they stood to make from foreign clients in 2010; one of them identified only as ‘Mama Ice’ retorted: “This World Cup will come for only 28 days out of a whole year. We have already been told that we are not wanted at the stadiums by the municipality and we hear this FIFA of theirs has standards and we are not good enough for them so what has 2010 got to do with us?”

And they will not be the only ones finding themselves looking in from the outside while the World Cup passes them by as African journalists may very well find themselves playing second fiddle to foreign sports reporters who will be better equipped, better sponsored and probably given preferential treatment ahead of Africans who are after all ‘family’ and can make room for the ‘guests’ – but that’s a story for another day.

2 comments to “So what’s 2010 got to do with it?”

  1. Comment by Bhunu:

    Great analysis, very few South Africans are going to benefit from the World Cup. I totally agree with the writer its all about big companies McDonalds, CocaCola and the others making huge profits.

  2. Comment by Fungai Machirori:

    Hey Delta,

    I agree with you. I remember meeting Mama Ice and realising that there is two sides to all of this euphoria around WC2010 – some people are actually going to lose from this endeavour…

    But sadly, that is always the case with these things and the big wheel of capitalism. We are always made to feel as though we are part of the VIP club, but we are really only cogs in the wheel, turning the machine forward…