South Africa is only 92 days away from hosting the first World Cup on African soil and realizing another one of Nelson Mandela’s dreams for his country. The host nation has built gleaming new airports, tourist accommodations, roads and has invested R13bn (£1.15bn) in magnificent stadia as it gets ready to welcome thousands of football fans in June. By hosting this football mega-event the nation is hoping to break away from its stereotypical image of poverty and inequality and showcase South Africa as an economically vibrant, safe and tourist friendly nation. However, all this could go terribly wrong as township dwellers in South Africa have threatened to disrupt the World Cup with violent protests. The South African government have failed to provide millions of people with proper homes in the 16 years of democratic rule in the nation. The squatters see protests during the World Cup as an ideal occasion to get maximum global coverage for their cause. The latest threats came from Mamelodi East, which is only 40 miles from the Soccer City, the stadium where the final and the first match of the month-long tournament will be played. Mamelodi is only 5 miles from one of the host cities Pretoria and has around 6000 squatters who live without electricity and running water.
The shack dwellers have threatened to lash out in front of the tourists and cause utter chaos. It is speculated that the police might even have to flood high risk areas to protect the tourists from the demonstrations which are usually violent and include burning tyres and pelting of stones. As one of the squatters said, ” soccer means nothing to us because we won’t be able to watch it anyway, since we don’t have electricity.”
The government however having budgeted £113m is confident about the security measures at the World Cup. The World Cup cannot get rid of South Africa’s problems like high crime, unequal wealth and highest number of people living with HIV, but it can definitely transform its image. South Africa has invested so much politically,emotionally and financially into the World Cup that one shudders to imagine how crushing a less than perfect World Cup would be.