Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hype, Happiness and Schizophrenia in South Africa

Someone who works high up in the Local Organising Committee told me how at first it had been a big culture shock to work with these Swiss; they did not understand each other at all. But in time they established a rapport and the fusing of African ebullience with old European discipline ended up doing the job admirably.

SHOOT: In the same newspaper you get this wonderful feel-good story by John Carlin calling the weather in all of South Africa fine and good, meanwhile elsewhere in the paper, talk of brewing bad weather in the form of real xenophobic plots. Fact is South Africa is not one country but two. There's the country of the haves, the minority, and the have nots. The one likes to pretend the other doesn't exist, and be happy, the other will kill for jobs. As long as we move between happy complacency and panic we maintain a schizophrenic culture in this country that only benefits ourselves when it suits us.
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Which brings us to the first lesson of this World Cup: the primary purpose of government is to protect its citizens. Well, let's absorb that thought and act on it. Sustain the good work that's been done after the show is over and watch this country go.

The second lesson, not at all unrelated to crime, is that if South Africa really puts its mind to something, it can do it, it can make a plan. Fifa has got a pretty bum rap from people in this country for its autocratic ways, but the Swiss-Germanic rigour that's flowed from Zurich has definitely sharpened up levels of efficiency and organisation round here, not to say - the big South African "d" word - of delivery.
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A leader must not be a jellyfish, said PW Botha. Heed those words, Mr President.
Though, perhaps, he won't. In which case, let's take comfort in the knowledge that the country is, I repeat, bigger and better than the state.
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"If South Africa is not a united country, then what country is?"
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