I'm back. Again. Hopefully for good this time.
Anyways, South Africa. Host country of the 2010 World Cup. Enigmatic country going through some difficult change at the moment.
According to new South African president Kgalema Motlanthe (pictured, above) and ruling party leader Jacob Zuma, South Africa will meet all the deadlines set by FIFA and are on course to host the “best World Cup ever” in 2010.
The assurance was issued against a background of a domestic political drama in South Africa that saw the ruling African National Congress, headed by Zuma, oust Thabo Mbeki as head of government and replace him with “caretaker” president Motlanthe.
Taking office on September 25, Motlanthe re-appointed highly-respected finance minister Trevor Manuel but deputy minister Jabu Moleketi, a key figure in World Cup preparations, was not on the list of re-appointed members of the executive.
According to the September 26 statement by Mothlanthe and Zuma, FIFA president Sepp Blatter told the new president in a telephone conversation: “I want to thank Mr Motlanthe for taking the time today to personally inform me about the situation, as this underlines the importance of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to the South African government. I was pleased to hear from him that the 2010 FIFA World Cup is fully supported by all political and governmental authorities and that everything will be done to make 2010 an unforgettable success."
Blatter assured Motlanthe of FIFA's “100 per cent support and assistance in the preparations as well as FIFA's full confidence and trust in South Africa's organisational capabilities”.
In an article posted September 27 on goal.com, reporter Peter Pedroncelli wrote: “the political situation has transitioned smoothly to the normal state of affairs, with the new president eager to keep all matters running on the right track. The dust has quickly settled and the future is bright for a nation of proud football fans that appreciate the great honour and responsibility which comes with hosting the greatest show on earth. South Africa will be ready. The world will be proud!”
In an interview with South African daily The Citizen on September 26, government spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said: “As government we remain optimistic that South Africa will host a successful World Cup in 2010… the political changes will not have any negative implications for next year's Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup”.
Local Organizing Committee chairperson Irvin Khoza has confirmed that an urgent meeting would be held to determine the impact of changes to government personnel as a result of Mbeki’s departure from office.
“Right now we are consulting with the ministries. It is important to say that the ministries have not resigned, and the government guarantees were signed by the ministries and not the individuals,” Khoza told Africa News.MY POV: While reading these assurances is wonderful, the fact of the matter is that South Africa is facing some upheaval.
In an article printed in October 6th's New York Times, writer Barry Bearak paints a gloomier picture.
The actual changing of the guard was orderly enough, but months of behind-the-scenes back-stabbing have made many South Africans long for days more abundant with moral clarity, including those fretful about a figure as polarizing as Mr. Zuma.
The past year has been especially unnerving, with one bleak event after another, and it is more than acidic politics that have soured the national mood. Economic growth slowed; prices shot up. Xenophobic riots broke out in several cities, with mobs killing dozens of impoverished foreigners and chasing thousands more from their tumbledown homes.
The country’s power company unfathomably ran out of electricity and rationed supply. Gone was the conceit that South Africa was the one place on the continent immune to such incompetence. The rich purchased generators; the poor muddled through with kerosene and paraffin.
Other grievances were ruefully familiar. South Africa has one of the worst crime rates. But more alarming than the quantity of lawbreaking is the cruelty. Robberies are often accompanied by appalling violence, and people here one-up each other with tales of scalding and shooting and slicing and garroting.
The poor apply padlocks in defense. The rich surround their homes with concrete and barbed wire — and there are suggestions that more are simply fleeing the country.
“On our street alone, just that one small street, three of the husbands in families were killed in carjackings or robberies,” said Antony McKechnie, an electrical engineer who a month ago moved to New Zealand. “If we had stayed and something had happened to any of our three children, we would never be able to forgive ourselves.”
Rich and poor, black, white and mixed race: their complaints may differ, but the discontent is shared. Polls show a pervasive distrust of government, political parties and the police.
I've expressed ultimate confidence in South Africa's abilities to host the World Cup. But will this political upheaval finally unnerve the nation enough to endanger their confidence? Let's hope not ...