2010 is almost over – the 2010 Soccer World Cup, that is. In South Africa, we simply referred to the greatest sporting event to hit our shores as 2010. For years since it was first announced that South Africa would organise the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the country has been collectively, and sometimes not, looking forward to the day when the world would see what the rainbow nation is about.
The task ahead was difficult because South Africa had to build from scratch and also improve existing structures. The threat of the “Plan B” was often bandied about at will when it seemed as though we were not living up to our promises.
I have decided that the World Cup fan parks are not my cup of tea. I am a bit of a football snob who prefers to either watch the game at the stadium or in front of the telly where I can follow the proceedings closely.
So, after much hustling and trying to purchase a ticket to the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, I ended up at the Sandton Fan Park at Innisfree Park.
Orlando in Soweto provided the venue for the first ever FIFA World Cup Kick Off Concert. And what a night it was. This whole week I was soothed to sleep by the sounds of night rehearsals by the artists who were preparing at Orlando Stadium, which is about five minutes away from my home.
People braved the cold Highveld weather….it is June after all….and came in their thousands. Angelique Kidjo, who is a bundle of endless energy, danced around the stage with much zest. John Legend brought the house down with his rendition of “Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “classic “Wake up everybody”. Hugh Masekela’s “Grazing in the grass” added the Kofifi flavour and later local RnB sensation Lira paid tribute to Miriam Makeba with “Pata Pata”.
They stood in the winter sun for up to two hours just waiting to catch a glimpse of their nation’s hope, Bafana Bafana. Some swopped their usual tie and shirts to don the South African National football jersey. Those who tried to work, it seems, eventually left their work stations and joined in the trumpet blast that gripped Johannesburg’s business hub also known as Sandton.
They blew their vuvuzelas, sang Shosholoza, blew the vuvuzelas some more and finally…..the green double decker bus carrying the national team emerged. Bafana Bafana supporters showed their love to the team ahead of their World Cup Opening match against Mexico on Friday. The players, led by captain Aaron Mokoena, could be seen perched atop the open bus taking pictures of the fans below and waving at them.
It is exactly one hundred years today since the formation of the Union of South Africa, but there are no signs of celebration over that. What exactly is the Union, you might ask? On May 31 1910, the southern part of Africa that is today known as the Republic of South Africa became a unitary state under British dominion in pretty much the geographical shape which exists to this day.
Given that for most South Africans, history from 1910 until the end of white minority rule in 1994 was one of exclusion and oppression there may be understandable reasons why it is not a date to be accompanied by mass celebrations.
Africa is rich in natural resources like oil, gold, diamonds, platinum and yet millions of African people live in abject poverty. The global economic and climate crisis have made life even harder.At the recent G8 meeting in Italy, African leaders and members of civil society voiced concerns over the promises made in previous G8 meetings of aid and assistance that have yet to materialise. But should African leaders be taking greater responsibility for the plight of their people? Is the West to some extent being asked to bear the responsibilities of African governments that have failed their people through wars, rigged elections and spectacular self enrichment? Should Africans not be investing more in their own economies?Many in the diaspora have stayed away from their countries of origin as a result of lack of progress, resources and infrastructure. But will that continue forever? Should Africans look to the West for handouts while some of its leaders live in luxury and some of their governments are ravaged by corruption?The visit to Ghana by U.S. President Barack Obama is seen by many as an opportunity for a new era of engagement, respect and partnership with Africa.But is Africa looking to the wrong man to be a saviour, simply because he has such a close connection to Africa through his Kenyan father?Africa has clearly not been among his top priorities since he took office and that may be little surprise given the magnitude of the global financial crisis. There are certainly doubts over whether he will do much more to help Africa’s leaders get the aid and support they say the West should provide.But should Africans in any case be looking to Obama – or anyone from outside – to solve the continent’s problems? Or is there more that Africans should be doing themselves to improve their lives?