Monday, July 12, 2010

FT asks South African thought leaders: Was World Cup Worth It?

Ferial Haffajee, Newspaper editor: I like that we protest, complain. Communities here protest all the time. I’ve learnt to see that as an asset, that will compel us, I hope, in the right direction.

Mark Gevisser: My personal stand against reconciliation has been a refusal to sing “Die Stem” [the old apartheid anthem, some of whose lines have been integrated into the new South African anthem, “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”]. But at this Bloemfontein game I sang “Die Stem” for the first time since high school. My reason for doing so was I watched the white South Africans around me, and this is Bloemfontein, a lot of white Afrikaans Free Staters [people from Orange Free State] going to their stadium bedecked in our new national colours and wearing these colours with ease and comfort and just happiness. And I watched these Afrikaners sitting around me with tears in their eyes as they were singing, and they knew the words of “Nkosi Sikelel’ ­iAfrika” and I thought if they can sing that, I can sing “Die Stem” and it’s over. It feels like a personal healing and a national healing.

SHOOT: Sensible article, one of very very few on this topic.
clipped from
(From left) Ann Bernstein, William Gumede, Sanza Tshabalala, Mark Gevisser and Ferial Haffajee
It was a peculiarly South African exercise. On a beautiful Johannesburg winter’s morning, five smart South Africans gathered around a kitchen table and, over coffee and pastries, talked about how the World Cup had changed their country.
But is talk of togetherness just propaganda in a country with some very tangible needs? Shouldn’t those billions have been used to train people for jobs, or to provide impoverished schools with libraries, or even just with teachers who actually teach? We wanted South African answers, but those are hard to find. This is a peculiarly unknowable country.
Ferial Haffajee
Sanza Tshabalala
Ann Bernstein
FT Weekend: Was it worth it?
Sanza: Yes, [but] as a wasted opportunity.
William: Not that I don’t like soccer, I’m obsessed with soccer. But it was not worth it.
Ferial: I think rationally and fiscally [it was] absolutely not [worth it]. But emotionally, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, for the intangible benefits for our country, and the fillip it’s given it at a difficult moment.
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