Wednesday, 12 May 2010

2010 World Cup vs the Poor

When South Africa won the bid to host the world cup South Africans at last felt that the Charles Dempsey injustices of 2004 was now history. 2010 is here and a lot of people are still unemployed and poverty still ravaging the country. What were the  expectations of the working class and workers in relation to the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

When South Africa was granted the right to host the FIFA 2010 World Cup it also came with the hopes of job opportunities and poverty alleviation. This was partly the basis upon which South Africa won the bid and indicated in its bid document.

Hope for new jobs in construction, hospitality and informal trading were renewed. Hospitality and informal sectors are mostly dominated by women and this was therefore seen as an opportunity for women to make a better living. Five years later has that materialised? Mainly temporary jobs were created in construction companies but workers were constantly in conflict with management concerning salaries and working conditions. Green point stadium alone was hit by strikes several times, whilst trade unions like COSATU, FEDUSA and BCAWU mobilised more than 70 000 workers to strike for a 13 % percent increase in 2008. Despite this some construction workers are still grateful that at least they got the job.  Simos Maboea a construction worker at the Soccer City Stadium is one of them “2010 have created jobs in South Africa because without 2010 pepople will in the streets with no jobs and skills.”.said Maboea.

Many promises of sustainable jobs and skills transfers to construction workers have been broken in the build-up to the World Cup. Bonuses promised like tickets to World Cup matches have not been honoured. Simon Nyalungu is a 35-year-old construction worker from Limpopo. He was retrenched when Soccer City Stadium in Soweto was finished and lost contact with the employer.   “I use to work in the stadium but now they have kicked us out I am now unemployed. These people promised us Tickets but now that we are outside and out of jobs we don’t know how are we gonna get those tickets”.  The labour movement looked forward to gaining from the Soccer Wold Cup as more people would get new jobs and join unions to protect their rights. In this way the working class would be benefiting through socio economic development. Instead the government committed more than R60 billion to 2010 World cup , but there is no sign of dividends.

Informal traders (street vendors) didn’t escape the wrath of local government and big business. They were harassed week in and week out and even threatened with eviction at places like a 100 year old Howick Market in Durban and FNB stadium in Soweto. Ever since the start of Stadia constructions street vendors on construction sites lived with fear that any time they could be evicted.

The latest threat was aimed at Soccer city Traders when Jo’burg city sent someone to let them know they are not wanted in February 2010. On the eve of 100 days celebrations Pat Horn of street net lamented the fact that FIFA drives South African soccer culture away from the stadiums “We want to see African street culture, music and indigenous food, the ‘shisa nyama’, informal traders, as an integral part of a visitor’s experience of South Africa,” she said.

Levels of poverty and unemployment are critically high in South Africa, with 25 million South Africans living UNDER the poverty line. Experts estimate that South Africa has spent R20 billion of taxpayer’s money, some expert’s estimate as high as R63 billion! The 2010 Soccer Wold Cup was seen as an easy way of easing the intensification of poverty and unemployment. With billions of Rands spent on this event, should the working class have to celebrate on Mayday when we salute the gains of workers?

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