10 November 2006

Use 2010 budget to make SA happy & safe

In four years from now, South Africa will be swamped by millions of soccer fans from all over the world to be a witness to their teams' fight for victory in the World Cup Soccer 2010. South Africa is proud to host the Mother of All Soccer Events and to make it a success billions and billions of rands will be spent on this once-off event. Billions that could have been used to address the country’s most important challenges, to make the Rainbow Nation a better place for all, instead of for a few.

According to the latest statistics, South Africa has reserved over 15 billion rand (or $2 million) for the 2010 World Cup Soccer. Just a few weeks before releasing these figures, the budget was reported to be12 billion rand.

More than half of the money (8,4 billion rand) will be spend on the construction and renovation of the ten soccer stadiums across the country, and 6,7 billion rand will be go to the improvement of the public transport, policing, arts and culture, emergency medical services, border control and other costs.

The Dark Side

It is certainly admirable that a country is prepared to do anything to prove itself to the outside world. I truly believe South Africa will be able to pull it off, and that the World Cup Soccer 2010 will be a memorable one. But to me, there is a dark side to a bright and happy story.

While billions are being put into this event which will only last several weeks , millions of South Africans are still waiting for the better future that was promised to them not so very long ago. These billions – and the total amount of money spend on the soccer event is expected to escalate with 20% to 50% - should be used to address priority issues such as education, health care, service delivery, housing, an adequate HIV/AIDS policy, poverty alleviation, safety and security, and other challenges South Africans face day after day.

Sustainable change

The statement that the World Cup will contribute in a significant way to the people is to my opinion, overrated. How many people from the townships will see a real improvement of their lives due to the event that will mostly take place in the city centre, far away from where they live? Employment is often used as an answer to this question. "The World Cup Soccer 2010 will create jobs like no event did ever before," has been stated quite often. This statement needs to be inspected carefully.

I truly believe in a sustainable approach in empowering en uplifting people. And a sustainable approach to the unemployment issue is to provide permanent jobs. People are not helped with temporary jobs, as this chases them back into poverty and does not change anything on the long run. My question therefore is: How many permanent jobs are created as a result of the World Cup? And how many people have to kiss their jobs good bye after things turn back to normal?

Two million shack dwellers

Although the seeds of democracy have sprouted, many South Africans are still waiting for the changes that were promised not so long ago. A drive from Cape Town’s city centre to the airport is enough to realise that. It is impossible to miss the kilometers of shacks along the high way. Here, the living conditions are simply said inhuman.

Estimates of Habitat for Humanity – an organization that assists communities to build low cost but decent houses – show that almost one in four South Africans (10 million people) live in poverty housing. Of this group almost two million live in shacks pieced together with cardboard, corrugated iron, scrap, wood and other materials. In these informal dwellings service delivery is non-existent, running water and electricity are scarce and sanitary facilities are of extremely poor condition. Crime and violence are part of everyday life, which is characterized by hardship in the broadest sense of the word. Apparently, the housing backlog in South Africa is estimated at 2,5 million houses.

A quick calculation tells me that 16 billion rand, if spend by Habitat for Humanity on the construction of houses, can result in the construction of at least 355 555 homes of 50 square meter with internal walls, plumbing, electricity and bathroom fixtures. These costs include labour costs and the materials.

The state of state hospitals

Housing is not the only issue faced by millions of South African. Inadequate public health care is another. The majority of South Africans – 27 million people - depend on state hospitals as they cannot afford private clinics. The situation in many of these facilities is heartbreaking and sickening: Lack of materials, lack of medicine, lack of funding, lack of staff (especially in the rural areas), and overworked health personnel are the tip of the iceberg.

Visiting various state hospitals across South Africa, the Democratic Alliance (DA) came across wards that were infested with vermin and reeking of human waste, patients sharing beds, waste piling up in the hallways and floors flooded by broken toilets. In a particular hospital, doctors had reported that sometimes they had been forced to operate by torchlight due to failing electricity and the non-existence of a generator. In this same hospital, situated in the Mpumalanga province, nurses stated that at one stage “they had been expected to keep intensive care patients live by manually pumping air into their lungs during the many power black-outs.”

Apart from investing in housing and health care, more attention should be paid to education. And safety and security. Not only in the city centers but also in and around South Africa’s townships and disadvantaged areas, which are tormented by crime and violence.

Invest in happy and healthy society

In reality, all eyes and wallets are focused on a once-off event instead of on the one thing South Africa needs best: A healthy and happy society in which the poorer are not getting poorer but are given a chance to break free from their situation, a society in which everybody has the chance to a good education and good health care, a society in which no one have to live in a shack along the highway, and where one does not have to be afraid for the nightfall.


Miriam Mannak / Africa in the News - Cape Town

2 Comments:

Blogger Yzerfontein said...

One of the fringe benefits of hosting Soccer World Cup 2010 is that our politicians are under the world's eye for a few years.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Miriam Mannak (1977) said...

True, but what is the world going to do when people screw up? I don't think the majority of the soccer fans outside of SA care about political developments in SA. They just want to see England / Holland / Brasil / who ever play a terrific game under the African sun. And about FIFA, I am not sure what measures the organisation can take in case SA policians screw up.

9:17 AM  

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