Mbombela Stadium: Built on corruption and hit lists

Jimmy Mohlala.jpg
Jimmy Mohlala was killed after exposing corruption in the ANC
The NY Times has an article by Barry Bearak on the cost of building Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit (FIFA has kept its Afrikaan name but it is officially Mbombela), gateway to Kruger National Park, which will host four of the World Cup’s 64 matches.
The stadium is an assay into every step gone wrong.
A summary: From the disputed acquisition of the stadium land for which the local Matsafeni community were paid a pittance; the forced eviction of two city schools from its site; a turf war between rival ANC factions fighting for a share of World Cup monies and patronage; an entrenched system of kickbacks and fraud which escalated stadium costs; and the murder of the city council speaker Jimmy Mohlala, the whistleblower who exposed them.
Amidst all this excess, is the grim picture of squalor and some of the world’s worst inequality. Yet, no one knows what will happen to Mbombela Stadium once the World Cup ends. Will it become a white elephant used for government rallies? Leaving all those rosy promises of economic succour to the surrounding inhabitants largely unfulfilled. Proving critics of the World Cup correct, that it was primarily concocted to benefit the elite minority and the politically connected.
The Mbombela gives us a glimpse into the paradox of a sport which once united black South Africans living in shanty towns in their struggle against apartheid but now lays bare the divisions in an increasingly split political landscape.
By the way, compare this article and its more hopeful ending to the more bleak Guardian article on this very topic and one can draw the conclusion that the World Cup means different things to different people. Then again, it also lends some legitimacy that the British media is a bit Hobbesian in their SA coverage.

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