Thursday, July 30, 2009

Urban Unrest Convulses South Africa

Does this look like a country ready to host a World Cup?

I would imagine that even the poorest of South Africa's legion of impoverished people are pleased the World Cup is coming to their country in 2010.

But in the meantime, lots of people living in the nation's infamous shantytowns are ticked off by a government that continues to promise much and deliver little.

In this Los Angeles Times story today, it is clear that the issue involves tens of thousands of demonstrators and as many as 20 "townships" -- as the shantytowns are generically known.

Here is another look at what is going on there, a 14-part slide show of photographs of demonstrators. (Note that demonstrators are carrying vuvuzelas in several photos.)

Here is a link to a photo gallery appearing on the (Johannesburg) Sunday Times Web site. The newspaper, which I am coming to believe is the best in South Africa, has coverage of the upheaval, but it isn't particularly well-placed. Which indicates to me that 1) this sort of disorder happens fairly often and, thus, is only second-tier news or 2) they are trying not to make too big an issue out of it, 300-plus days before the World Cup is scheduled to begin.

If that kind of civil disobedience were racking any Western government, we would call them "riots." In Europe, under the parliamentary system, a government might fall over this kind of unrest.

Anyway, the World Cup:

Should the event even be allowed in a country which admits to 23.6 percent unemployment, has an unequally distributed per capita income of $10,000 -- and now has daily riots in the streets that South African experts suggest will only intensify?

Attention, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter: Better have that Plan B for the 2010 World Cup in the top drawer of your desk. And make sure potential organizers in England or Germany or the United States are on "speed-dial."

You gambled on taking the World Cup to Africa ... and at the moment, that gamble seems like a bad one.

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