Hierdie is die LitNet-argief (2006–2012)
Besoek die aktiewe LitNet-platform by www.litnet.co.za

This is the LitNet archive (2006–2012)
Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Menings | Opinion > SeminaarKamer | Seminar Room > English > Essays

FIFA World Soccer Cup is here!

Jameson Maluleke - 2010-06-10

Time and again, we South Africans fail to transform our society into a great nation with its own passion and ambitions that surpass the American dream.

Why do we keep on failing to do the obvious? Has somebody cast a spell on us? Is it a curse from the gods? Perhaps it is because we don’t listen to the advice of the knowledgeable, but insist on groping our way around like blind men.

Well, we are not a bunch of failures or a lazy lot who await miracles and expect gifts. And we have neither been cursed nor are we donkey stubborn. On the contrary, we are a blessed lot. It is not that we don’t have good and competent leaders, or visionaries who can dream far into the future. Our country produces whiz kids from every branch of knowledge capable of leading the country into the prosperous future. Translating our thinking and planning into an action programme pronounces itself as the main obstacle of transformation.

Planning and policy-making are indeed a crucial element in nation-building, as is indicated by linguist Vic Webb:

Viewing language planning as part of the strategic planning of a country means that it is regarded as an instrument in the development of the human resources of the national state, and is subordinate to the policies directed at the realisation of the state's national ideals.

True enough; Webb writes about language, but planning or policy-making for sport, language or any activity is generally one and the same thing. However, if planning and policy-making are not implemented they would just remain national ideals and nothing else. For a drawn-up plan to work it needs to be implemented. Execution is the end result of any intention, procedure plan, policy or any guiding principle. As I said earlier on, experts and whiz kids know about implementation, but many of them are in a wrong political kraal, with the result that government administration is manned by toads called administrators.

The government has found it easy to accord national official language status to all nine languages. Yet implementing the language policy has become a heavy burden for it to bear. Some communities who have been compensated with farmlands that used to be owned by the whites could not make their farming theories and methods produce enough food to feed themselves, let alone feeding the wider community. The Lord Mayor and his minions have unwillingly allowed central business districts of our major cities and towns to degenerate into urban squalour because they cannot take any meaningful action to deal with the rot.

Opportunities that opened avenues for us to champion our social reformation have come and gone. Our short-sightedness prevents us from seizing these opportunities to transform the country. The only thing we are capable of is to whine like puppies all day long, blaming racism and imaginary conspiracy for our misery. Fifteen years ago, when Mandela majestically walked through the prison gates to his freedom, we all came together and celebrated with him. Thereafter we withdrew to our formal and informal settlements. Again in 1994, when Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratic president, and when South Africa was crowned as one of the continent’s sparkling democracies, we romped in indulgence as we rejoiced for days on end. When the noise died down, we retreated to our respective kraals and laagers, thus discarding whole event from our hallowed mind.

In everyday situations we find it extremely hard to come together as brothers and sisters to consolidate and celebrate our South Africanness. It is only in national gatherings such as rallies and sports that we come together and have a chance to celebrate our identity as South Africans. Unlike other social gatherings, sport in South Africa has the full potential to pull divided groups together and force them to come together as a united nation, albeit for a short period of time. And as a sporting nation we gladly participate in any sport, and once the play has ended, we go our own ways without exploiting the chance offered to help build, develop and transform our society.

In a recent rugby match at Orlando Stadium in Soweto it was uplifting to see South Africans of every hue on the TV screen sitting side by side cheering their respective teams on. The multitudes who attended the match are convinced that it was a historic event which attracted scores of people who have never been to Soweto before. Commenting on the event after his team had won the match, Bulls captain Victor Matfield said:

We just said in the change rooms that we saw in 1995 what sport can do to the country, and these last two weeks showed how we can build bridges and break own borders. People who would never have come to Soweto. It is great for our country. Hopefully the Soccer World Cup will just take it further, and will show everyone what a great country this is. (Star, May 31, 2010)

For the first time in decades, South Africans from different ethnic groups sat together and celebrated rugby like true daughters and sons of the soil. Thereafter the chapter was closed, and they parted ways to carry on with our own private business.

The famous Comrades Marathon which is held every year attracts foreign nationals from as far afield as Russia and China. In this year’s Comrades Marathon, as in previous ones, South Africans came together as a welcoming host, cheered and celebrated with the winners. For two years in succession we forgot our own racial prejudices and xenophobia to welcome a Zimbabwean citizen and a train of foreign nationals into our loving arms when they won the race. But one doubts if our country’s administration will ever see this as a chance to effect the much-needed social change.

It is for this reason that confused critics are quick to point out that despite the hype and myth-making created by sport, it cannot change socio-economic inequalities. They maintain that fundamental divisions and antagonisms will remain unresolved notwithstanding the fact that sport is a crucial element in transforming our society.

Sport is a tool – a man-made activity which creates an opportunity for us as catalysts for change to uproot socio-economic injustices in our midst. A signpost cannot be blamed when a traveller fails to reach his/her destination, since the duty of the signpost is not to travel, but to show the way. So it is with sport: it creates an opportunity for us to advance common humanity. The potential energy embedded in sport as an agency for change was elucidated by Sportingo writer Matt Genner (October 2007) in the following lines:

In a country where politics and sport are intertwined, sport cannot be underestimated in its power to unite. Lest we forget, sport was used as a vehicle to rid the country of the apartheid policy. Now it can have a role in creating a fairer and more equal society. People and politicians, however, can’t sit back and wait for it to happen. Instead, they must use the momentum it has created.

This activity, or exercise if you like, is doing more to facilitate our social development than politicians and the commoners combined. The pace with which sport smooths progress for development is far faster than the government’s swiftness in introducing a better life for all.

The Soccer World Cup is here. Are we to come together and blow the famous artificial horn, vuvuzela, for the whole month until we are all deaf? Are we to embark on a national strike every time the national squad loses a match? After all, striking is our national pastime, which has famously become the best way to express a request for pay increase, for the country’s president to vacate his office once he has fallen out of favour. Here you never ask to answer to the call of nature; according to the philosophy of protest marches you have to toyi-toyi all the way to the loo. Are we going to snatch handbags and other valuables from foreign soccer fans as part of our national job creation?

South Africa, our dear land! What can we do to stand up for you? Is the after-event of the Fifa Soccer World Cup going to bring us an answer?

I hear a voice saying, "Implement your plans and policies, deliver services to the people, and fulfill your age-old promises."

Let us pray that our national administrators are listening, and that they will finally drag themselves from their stately sofas and start pulling up their red socks.