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The True Cost of the World Cup in South Africa

Hosting the World Cup does little to help the people of South Africa.

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FIFA will anticipate an expected €1.2 billion in media rights alone. Earnings for 2010 have already exceeded €1 billion which potentially makes it the most lucrative FIFA event on record.

The government typically pleads poverty when it comes to delivery of basic services, but they managed to locate R30 billion (US $4 billion) to build stadiums and a further R757 billion (US $100 billion) for infrastructure development as mentioned above. Without an adequate or sincere program to handle the crisis of homelessness, the local government has instead used quick “fixes” to conceal homeless children /youths and other unwanted people who could spoil the view for our visitors. The cities are looking cleaner but this is at the cost of placing the urban displaced and homeless in remote de facto concentration camps. Recent reports stating that homeless people in Cape Town were being ‘cleaned up’ and used as volunteers during World Cup for a few rand per day were met with appropriate derision.

Street traders have also been marginalized from the most visible and lucrative routes to soccer stadiums.  FIFA and local authorities have banned  “ambush marketing” – any vending other than FIFA’s corporate sponsors (e.g. McDonald’s, Coke, Budweiser) along most busy major roads, and virtually all public spaces where tourists can be expected.  Street traders have typically been harassed through brutal evictions and confiscation of goods, but the authorities have accelerated their bullying in the past year. This month in Durban thousands marched to protest against the ‘FIFA mafia’ and exorbitant costs of the Tournament. These included bus drivers, street traders, consumer groups, the unemployed, youths and construction workers. They provide a much-needed moral anchor in the midst of euphoric and mind numbing flag-waving.

Liepollo Lebohang Pheko is a policy analyst, social entrepreneur and social activist. She serves as Policy and Advocacy Director at an NGO/Think Tank called the Trade Collective in South Africa. She is the Africa co-convener of the World Dignity Forum and she is part of the African Social Forum Secretariat. Pheko will be attending the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, MI from June 22-June 26, 2010.

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