Defend Truth


Really, boycott the FIFA farce

Ivo Vegter is a columnist and the author of Extreme Environment, a book on environmental exaggeration and how it harms emerging economies. He writes on this and many other matters, from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets.

Having given FIFA extraordinary rights that no ordinary South African enjoys, the government is now proposing outright extortion.

The reasons to boycott the Fifa World Cup 2010 are piling up. I greeted 2010 by proposing such a boycott, arguing that Fifa has hijacked our government by getting it to enact special laws that unfairly prejudice South African citizens and their businesses. It also noted the extraordinary expense of what is little more than a self-aggrandising promotion exercise for South Africa, and that there are good reasons to believe so many billions would be better invested in well-directed development projects.

These reasons are sufficient to warrant a boycott of Fifa and its sponsors. Fifa has, according to one foreign journalist I spoke with, freely admitted that it considers itself akin to a state with sovereign rights over football, and that this gives it status to negotiate directly with governments. That even poor countries like ours freely grant it such extraordinary powers is both scary and revolting.

But it gets worse. Last week, Kevin McCallum, the senior sports writer for The Star, drew attention to a new piece of legislation, stunningly bald-faced in its extortionate intent.

The proposal by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) appears to be designed to thwart trade and industry, by slapping entertainment venues – including everything from bars to oil rigs to hospitals – who dare to show football matches on television while serving alcohol with a hefty R50,000 fee for a once-off liquor licence.

It has sparked an outpouring of sarcasm and satire in a way that legislative matters seldom do.

On TimesLive, Carlos Amato proposed a teetotal tournament, and hefty fines for people who discuss the World Cup without authorisation from Fifa.

McCallum himself proposed calling South Africa the Republic of [Fifa sovereign] Sepp Blatter, and imposing a tax on people who wear supporter’s gear. The very few people rich and daft enough to accept the monopoly prices of official kit (which, ironically, excludes most of South Africa’s football-watching public) can surely be squeezed for some more. In fact, his proposed quantum, R20, is far from sufficiently predatory.

A Sapa report quotes a lawyer, Marius Blom, to the effect that the R50,000 World Cup liquor licence would be both unlawful and unconstitutional. Not only does the DTI lack the right to regulate the retail sale of alcohol, but existing licences to sell booze and show sport on TV are sufficient to grant venues the same rights during the World Cup.

I’d argue this measure is downright criminal. If you or I tried it, we’d get locked up in prison for extortion.

According to South African Criminal Law & Procedure, by Milton, Burchell, Hunt and Burchell, “Extortion consists in taking from another some advantage by intentionally and unlawfully subjecting him to pressure which induces him to submit to the taking.”

Furthermore, it defines “pressure” as “some thing in the nature of a threat, something which is intended to inspire fear and which does inspire fear. … The threat may be for an example, bodily harm, damage to property, arrest or prosecution, defamation, dismissal, civil proceedings or inconvenience. The threat may be expressed or implied by words or conduct.”

The possibility of being raided by the police inspires fear. Requiring an extraordinary payment, over and above regular licence fees which permit an establishment to sell alcohol while showing sport on TV, at pains of being prosecuted or shut down, qualifies as “extortion”.

A local barman of Zimbabwean stock was visibly shocked at the news, and was eloquent about it: “That’s a lot of money. How many places make that much profit? I worry this place will have to close and I won’t have a job. They are learning from my grandfather [Robert Mugabe].”

That, dear minister, is fear.

I hope bars and restaurants will go to court to give the government the almighty smack it so richly deserves. This is our country, you rapacious lowlifes. You’re supposed to govern in our interests, not those of a greedy gaggle of foreign sports promoters.

Now, who’s joining me for beer and footie at the hospital?


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