Opinionista Ivo Vegter 6 April 2010

While FIFA takes over, we fight

The only real benefit the 2010 FIFA World Cup buys us – marketing – is in danger of being torpedoed by our ill-disguised tradition of fighting about race.

It is becoming abundantly clear – thanks in large part to low-cost airline Kulula’s cocky marketing campaign designed to annoy humourless Fifa marketroids – that South Africa has sold its birthright for a mess of pottage.

Fifa stands to earn several times more from the long-awaited football event than the rest of South Africa stands to gain in additional GDP. Moreover, South African taxpayers will be paying the vast majority of the cost of staging the demanding spectacular.

Outside Fifa, its sponsors and partners, and a few selected cronies rich enough to buy a place at the trough, special laws have been put in place to make sure the cartel gets its hands on every farthing that can remotely be connected to the World Cup. The laws our government has written for the His Imperial Majesty Sepp Blatter, are nothing short of disgraceful.

Now it seems even that mess of pottage is mortally tainted.

Everyone would love to show the world a South Africa 16 years after the miracle of its relatively peaceful liberation. Everyone would love to demonstrate what reconciliation means; how we have reconstructed a divided and oppressed society; how we are thriving on the strength of our citizens’ innate decency, love of country, optimism and energy.

But what will the world see? Tourist business operators who mutter darkly that they are also “farmers”. The reference is clear: Eugene Terre’blanche was a white man murdered on a farm, and Julius Malema is a black man who continues to sing nasty war songs long after the war has been won, calling on the masses to kill farmers.

What will the world see? Julius Malema, and Terre’blanche’s attackers, both leaving their respective courthouses to face adoring crowds who call them heroes.

What will the world see? A sensational national media that devotes column-feet to making a connection between two extremists, neither of which deserve the space.

What will the world see? A national leadership unable to unite across party lines, unable to douse the flames lit by a murder that has inevitable political overtones (even if there is no evidence that politics was the motive), and unable to rein in its more radical leaders.

What will the world see? A country where people are afraid and security appears as serious an issue as their sensationalist tabloids have always maintained.

What will the world see? Angry people who appear not to have won anything in 1994, and are still defiantly fighting a war of resistance to white supremacy.

They will see angry masses disenchanted with security and what they view as reverse racism. They will see other angry masses disenchanted with the slow pace at which their prosperity is growing. They will see two polarised groups, both of which are angry at profligacy and corruption, and each of which blames the other side.

The Fifa monopolists and their squads of single-minded lawyering fascists are exploiting South Africa for their own gain, and at the expense of South Africa’s small businesses, entrepreneurs and poor millions.

And the only benefit those exploited citizens will gain, is to have unreconstructed fascists on both sides of the racial divide showcased to the world. We’re marketing the Great Divide.

My first instinct, when I heard of Eugene Terre’blanche’s murder, was to ignore it. It appeared to be just another murder in a country in which murders have become all too common. Judging by the guy’s history, he probably had death by the sword coming.

My next thought was that the right wing, at least, would try to pin the murder on Julius Malema, despite the fact that there is no evidence the killers were inspired by Malema’s hate speech, and even if there was, he could not be guilty in the matter.

Don’t misunderstand my defence of Malema. He’s an uncouth, insensitive and immature fellow, spewing political vitriol. His “struggle songs” are as discordant and intellectually lazy as anti-German venom would have been in the Europe of the 1960s. However, he should have the right to spew whatever idiotic and hateful garbage he wants. Surely this does not make him culpable for the criminal actions of two people he has probably never met and over whose actions he has no control?
Sadly, the mainstream media was no more composed than the right wing supporters of Terre’blanche. They also could not resist the temptation to make the link and hype it to high heaven.

International television stations are all covering the murder. Thanks to our own media, they are all showing racist thugs with flags of fascist organisations or non-existent countries on one hand, and racist thugs with fire-breathing war songs on the other.

We owe Nelson Mandela, and the millions who suffered, struggled, and died for freedom and racial reconciliation in this country an apology. We’re screwing it up. That we’re not mature enough to ignore the loud-mouthed thugs among us is a betrayal of the hope and promise of the stirring anthem we sang beneath the six-coloured smoke trails suspended over the Union Buildings in 1994.

That is what we will show the world, while Sepp Blatter counts his billions. Some marketing investment.


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