|Can South Africa pull off the 2010 World Cup without a hitch? Even locals have doubts.|
South Africa’s aging or nonexistent infrastructure, corruption and violence, not to mention “taxi wars” and “highway stoning,” make the country a questionable choice to host the 2010 World Cup.
One Web site, whose publisher has received death threats, is warning tourists off his country by highlighting violent crimes. And even some public officials are questioning how and whether investment in the tournament will benefit the poor.
Neil Watson of Crime Expo SA has taken upon himself to expose the country’s violent crimes even at the risk of his own welfare. Graphic details of rape, murder and other heinous crimes are displayed openly.
Mr. Watson says he launched the campaign to jolt the South African leadership so it might take serious steps to clamp down on crime. One key goal is “a decline in international tourists.”
Statistics by the South African Police Service [SAPS] reflect the need for major action. In the fiscal year ending in March 2005, there were 18,793 murders. That translates to 40.3 murders per 100,000 residents, making South Africa one of the murder capitals of the world.
The eighth United Nations survey of crimes covering 2001 and 2002 shows South Africa had a murder rate of 47.53 in 2002. El Salvador came in second with 31.54. The United States had a murder rate of 5.62. (Colombia did not submit its data.)
For the 2004-2005 period, the SAPS data also showed:
|Kidnapping and Abduction:||6,498|
|Carjacking and Truck Hijacking:||13,364|
With these kinds of numbers, Mr. Watson is right to launch an international awareness campaign and to highlight the weak and ineffective criminal justice system. Yet Young Adam “Addy” Barnes seemed disgusted by Mr. Watson’s shock campaign and launched a different one, titled “the unbroken barometer.”
Mr. Barnes is clearly proud to be a South African and acknowledges the crime problem, but he promotes positive dialogues over an anti-tourism campaign. He is not alone in opposing the Crime Expo SA site. Government officials and promoters of tourism and investment have also taken a dim view of the soon-to-be very gory Web site.
Corruption linked to preparations for 2010 has already made headlines. Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal province has spent 200,000 Rand (US$28,000) to send four officials to watch Germany handle the World Cup. KwaZulu-Natal itself has spent 320,000 Rand (US$45,000) to send a dozen officials. In contrast, Cape Town spent a modest 80,000 Rand (US$11,000) to send a 90-member delegation on a fact-finding trip to Germany.
Behind that conservative spending is Cape Town’s new mayor, Helen Zille. She is enthusiastic about hosting the tournament in her city. Yet she remains openly cautious about ‘diverting funds away from housing and social projects.’
There is some good news about social projects. South Africa is well on its way to eliminate the “bucket toilet system” and bring basic fresh water to all residents. Another variable to consider is FIFA. The football federation’s stringent rules on money-making sponsorship deals could potentially rob local entrepreneurs of valuable opportunities and hand lucrative business to international conglomerates.
Getting around town and the country will be a major headache and often unsafe. Gautrain, an ambitious project to build high-speed rails for bullet train, will not be finished by 2010. Tourists will be left with unsafe and sometimes violent trains that are overcrowded.
South African highways are famous for stoning. Bricks and other objects strike unsuspecting drivers are high speeds. Federal and provincial officials appear unable, for some reason, to jointly tackle the deadly problem.
Many residential neighborhoods are unsafe as well. In Cape Town suburbs last weekend, gangs armed with AK-47 assault rifles hijacked at least four cars (Benz, BMW, Renault and Golf) from their driveways as the owners were leaving for work. The cars were later abandoned nearby.
Taxis? Ride them at your own risk. No, cab drivers are not out for you. They are out for each other. Fierce turf battles among rival taxi companies involved hit men and assault rifles. At least 2,000 people died in the taxi wars, and thousands more were injured. Most of the victims were innocent bystanders.
In the end, post-Apartheid South Africa is worth visiting. It’s almost like any other world class tourist destination except for the enormously high rates of crime, death, destruction and HIV infection. The beaches? They look beautiful in photos.