A sense of relief brushed through the footballing world now that South Africa conducted their fourth straight democratic election. Another significant hurdle has been cleared en route to hosting the 2010 World Cup.
According to the New York Times, South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress, is once again steamrolling to a big election victory, leading with 67 percent of the vote on Friday after the bulk of the ballots have been counted. The victory will easily propel Jacob Zuma, a populist often surrounded by controversy, into the presidency.
Project 2010 says that Zuma's corruption trial and his election have 'clearly impacted on the psyche of (South Africa) which now needs to regroup in order to ensure that the final preparations for the world’s biggest single-code sporting event go according to plan.'
But if history's an indicator of the future, South Africa will be just fine.
About a year before the 2006 World Cup, Germans were convinced that the tournament would be a failure.
There were serious divisions in that society and it took the launch of a major initiative to unite the country. Government, big business and citizens united behind a holistic brand campaign which improved the economy, attracted international investment and produced a spectacular tournament. It’s safe to say that South Africa is in a similar position to Germany was at this stage in its preparations, albeit for different reasons.
Nevertheless, after months of discord and uncertainty, it can now look forward to a period of stability. As the incoming president, one of the immediate challenges Zuma faces is resolving disputes over the 2010 Bus Rapid Transit system. The first phase of the system was due to kick off in Johannesburg ahead of the Confederations Cup, but the initiative has been rejected by many taxi drivers who believe their jobs and income are now threatened.
Nevertheless, Zuma has built a relationship with them and he says he is looking forward to resolving any outstanding issues. Thanks to years of hard work by numerous role-players, many of the other key 2010 challenges - particularly the stadium construction projects - are well on target. Nevertheless, the next few months will be crucial for this country’s 2010 preparations. The Confederations Cup - a key curtain raiser for 2010 - needs to provide the spark which will set the stage for a tsumami of patriotism that will once again see the rainbow nation uniting for a crucial cause.
MY POV: South Africa is placing a lot of importance on the Confederations Cup. Rightly so. It's an important barometer for the country and the footballing world.
And although I'm not too keen on South African politics, at least there's some stability in this arena. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks Zuma is the right man for the job, as this British journalist stationed in Johannesburg points out for the Telegraph.