Because a Stadium for the 2010 World Cup is clearly more Important than Hospitals in South Africa

I am nearing my 5 month mark in Johannesburg, South Africa and am never surprised to learn about the destructive activities President Thabo Mbeki sanctions. First, it was his on-going refusal to recognize the relationship between HIV+AIDs (heightened by 2003 public declaration that he doesn’t know anyone who has died of AIDS), the reluctance to roll out ARVs until a 2002 lawsuit (but only recently did he formally recognize AIDS and pledge an aggressive ARV program), and his quiet support of his health minister Tshabalala-Msimang rejection of ARVs in favor of a ‘beetroot, garlic, lemon and the african potato’ diet. Now, Mbeki, a man who has mastered the art of “Talking Left, Walking Right’–a demagogue in his own right, is sanctioning shifting away funds from hospital construction to make-up for R600 million shortage of funding for the construction of the King Senzangakhona Stadium to host the 2010 World Cup.

As good ole BBC tells us:

A hospital building programme in South Africa has been put back, to help pay for the football World Cup which the country is hosting in 2010.

Two hospitals in the remote Northern Cape have been told their buildings will be delayed because of cuts in government spending.

The rising cost to South Africa of hosting the World Cup is beginning to take its toll on government spending.

A new 200-bed hospital in De Aar is to be delayed – so is another in Upington.

A spokeswoman for the Northern Cape health department, Shelley Fielding, said money had been diverted to prepare for 2010.

“The hospital building programme will resume in 2008/9 financial year. Other provinces are also affected,” Ms Fielding said.

The South African treasury said spending on health was increasing but did not deny that the money had been transferred.

and because as we are told that Mbeki “has staked South Africa’s reputation on the event […] nothing is likely to stand in its way.” Despite the conclusions about postponed hospital construction, Lungisi Fuzile, the national treasury deputy director general denies the allegations arguing that money was simply shifted away from certain provinces to others. Oh okay…but the hospitals still aren’t being built, right?

In writing this I am not sure if I have a question…or if this is just a declaration of the danger of global south nations, that sometimes like poor cities in the US take on large redevelopment projects like waterfronts etc. to generate revenue.
You have clean-up and redevelopment efforts here that are more indicative of providing a superficial sanitized space for moneyed tourist to feel comfortable enough to walk-about and spend money then about poverty alleviation. Soweto, a township abandoned for decades is now being spruced up in anticipation of hosting the championship game of the World Cup.

To prepare South Africa for the World Cup many changes are occurring. Hospital construction is put on hold, but at the same time previously ignored communities like Soweto are seeing a growth in private investment and business development albeit moreso benefiting the emerging Black middle-class. Should moneyed folks coming to South Africa be the only reason the government chooses to pay attention to these communities? Or should we be less concerned about the motivations for this renewed interests and be happy that Soweto (irrespective of the neo-liberal path of development) is finally on the national agenda.

Should South African social movements take advantage of this moment when Mbeki is concerned with putting South Africa’s best face forward to demand greater service delivery and the de-privatization of basic services like water and electricity?

Or maybe increases in policing and security will remove the poor dirty folks to the blind spots of the city not to disrupt to highly controlled and artificially constructed experience of tourists?…that way Mbeki wont be bothered with the trite work of fundamental problem solving.

Will state interest withdraw at the moment the last World Cup enthusiasts hops on a plane home?

What will be the effect of stalled hospital construction especially considering the nation’s HIV&AIDS epidemic?

Considering the cost to the poor of the World Cup is a boycott of the sporting event a meaningful form of action? Do those attending the World Cup carry any responsibility?

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Published on January 29, 2007 at 7:27 am. 3 Comments.
Filed under entertainment,news/politics,poverty,sports.