2010 World Cup: Afro-pessimism rears its head?

An old and deep rooted fear was stoked by a SA minister promoting the World Cup at the Beijing Olympics. Dr Essop Pahad, was recently reported as saying that ‘Even though they are a minority, there are still a lot of whites who don’t support Bafana Bafana”. In addition, he reportedly stated: “They also don’t care that the World Cup is being staged in South Africa’.
The first part of the statement can obviously be disputed. The lack of support reflects fans who have been disenchanted with Bafana Bafana’s performance for a while. Craig Urquhart points out, “It’s no secret that the South African public has, for the most part, fallen out with its team, which inspired the international football community in the early years following their re-admission into the Fifa fold.”
The abrupt departure of Carlos Alberto Parreira who obviously came for the money and his handpicked replacement Joel Santana, a manager with no national or even substantial club appearance further eroded the teams support. It reached its nadir when the team failed to qualify for the 2010 ACN.
The brickbats came from all sides. Both Clive Barker and Jomo Sono, SA’s eminence gris slammed SAFA for the selection of Joel Santana urging indigenous selections. The vice-president of the South African Football Association, chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, warned the country could ill afford to have Bafana Bafana “behave like the rand on world financial markets, or to be a source of amusement in Zapiro cartoons.” So the loss of faith comes universally.
However it is the second part of Pahad’s statement that is problematic. It hearkens to the colonial hangover of Afro pessimism, that of a continent too riddled with problems for good governance and economic development. The phenomenon specifies sub-Saharan countries in particular as failed states. SA was never part of this stereotype. But those were in the days of apartheid. Pahad’s statement instigates that whites maybe disillusioned enough to believe that the phenomenon could become a reality in SA with the ANC in power. So the World Cup is doomed to failure. A similar gloom seems to be settling in some white pockets of the USA with a Barack Obama presidency imminent.
To counter this perception that whites are secretly rooting for the World Cup to fail, the Human Sciences Research Council conducted a survey to find the attitudes amongst the different groups. They found no difference in the level of support for the World Cup between the different groups but there were differences in perception in what it would achieve.
Differences appear in the perception that SA’s international profile would rise with the World Cup. Less whites and Indians were sold on this benefit. HSRC does not give a reason for this finding because the differences are less than significant but it is nevertheless worthy of comment. The advent of the ANC has given blacks and coloreds political power at the cost of whites and Indians. The World Cup was awarded by FIFA to showcase the new post-apartheid SA. The blacks feel that they have a responsibility to the world to fulfill that confidence.
The one difference that is significant is the benefit from tourism. More whites and Indians believe that having the World Cup would improve that benefit. The service and manufacturing base is owned and staffed by predominantly these two groups. The banking, retail, jewelry and tourism sector is white majority owned. A company like SAB operates pubs, casinos, and hotels. Indians in Durban own family operate hotels, travel agencies, pharmacies, petrol stations, cab companies, provision stores, telecom and clothing stores. The government has started entrepreneurship programs for black businesses but success seems to be mixed and concentrated to the privileged few.
SA’s preparedness for the World Cup remains more of a concern to whites and they also see less long lasting benefits. Most of the skepticism probably derives from the fact that the high crime rate is more of a issue to this group while infrastructure problems seem to be slowly but steadily getting resolved. The abnormally high rates of murder and rape has led to white flight. It appears to be the single most contentious issue. Will the security apparatus put in place for the World Cup be enough to control crime?
The survey could have introduced more indexes like crime rate which is a concern for many tourists coming to SA for the World Cup and whether the groups see a mitigation in this problem as a possible benefit. It also would have been useful to also break down the respondents by age to show differences between generations. In the US, amongst blacks who grew up scarred by segregation a pernicious feeling of no matter how hard they work, they will fail prevails. This stands in contrast to the more confident generation growing up post segregation like Barack Obama believing that they can succeed. Are young blacks in the 18-21 year demographic as invested in their country’s international standing as compared to the older generation that grew up in apartheid?
Of course, all this pales somewhat in comparison to the gung ho reception of the Chinese to their Olympics. Eighty percent of them stated that the Olympics were personally important and ninety six percent believed that they would be a success. Sixty six percent said that the games had improved their country’s standing.

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