World Cup Report: Poverty and Promise in South Africa

A first-time visitor reacts to the harsh realities of life for the majority in South Africa.

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The FIFA 2010 World Cup begins today. The stadiums are built, the teams selected, and hotels room occupied. Vuvuzelas, the ubiquitous horns that are a staple of South African soccer matches, blow. Euphoria reigns. Some even liken it to the mood of ’94, when Nelson Mandela was elected president. But after the last goals have been scored and the final whistle blows, after the tourists go home, smoke will still rise from the Primrose shantytown; garbage will still pile up alongside its unpaved roads.

The steel bars of apartheid have been welded into wrought iron security gates. Some complain that the black majority exchanged safety for freedom. But can one really exist without the other? Those aren’t questions that keep residents of the Primrose squatter settlement awake at night. For one woman in the shantytown, the needs are basic: running water, a roof that doesn’t leak. ”We want flats to live in,” she said.

It’s impossible for anyone to hear her plea above the noise of the vuvuzelas.

 

Andrew J. Skerritt is an assistant professor of journalism at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla. He is visiting South Africa with a group of Florida A&M and Shantou University, China, journalism students. See there coverage of the World Cup here.

 

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