South Africa’s public broadcaster, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has coined a catchy phrase for the World Cup – “FEEL IT, it is here”, meant to energise South Africans to embrace the spirit of the international football extravaganza in June.
But, that spirit is hardly recognizable by foreign visitors arriving from the airport to the townships, where some locals say they don’t “feel” anything. The country has been dodged by strikes at critical key service sectors including transport.
Workers at Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) last week embarked on an indefinite strike to press for a wage increment, leaving close to 2 million people who use the trains on daily basis stranded.
Prasa has confirmed that commuters will have to make alternative transport arrangements because train services have been suspended. This follows a demand by workers for a 15 per cent wage increment, but with management offering just 8 per cent, there is no clarity as to when the strikes will end.
“Events over the last two months have been shocking here. Strikes and threats on violence are just too many,” said Gilbert Manzini at Park Station in Johannesburg.
Reflecting on the “FEEL IT, it is here” slogan Manzini says: “all what I am feeling is a sense of embarrassment when thousands of visitors start jetting in and ordinary South Africans will tell you so”. He says “what is even more annoying is the arrogance shown by politicians who constantly say everything is on track yet they know the truth”.
Manzini adds that in most remote parts of South Africa, the promised fun parks where people would watch the games are still to be set up, and chances are now slim.
In Johannesburg, a train-like commute in dedicated lanes with regular time-tables and designated stops has been set up. Commuters are expected to pay less money than the taxis charge. However, violent clashes have erupted as traditional mini-bus drivers who say they are being pushed out of business and sidelined from the tournament have attacked the transit system.
In April one person was killed and eight wounded in shooting attacks in Soweto making it the fifth attack since it’s launch.
Xolani Mneyi, a driver said: “The government is arrogant; they say the World Cup will benefit everyone but that’s all lies. As June 11 is near, more and more protests are on,” he warned.
The situation seems to worsen at the airports where the media has been focusing on concerns over security. There have been regular cases of murder, robberies and travelers losing valuable items at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, the popular transit airport in Africa.
Journalist Richard Anderson said his company recently exposed serious security lapses at major airports. “We carried out massive operations where staff managed to board flights armed with syringes, pocket knives, screwdrivers and other small dangerous items. Not a single one of us was arrested as they were not detected” he said.
But airport officials say it was “unusual for such a breach to occur”, while Bheki Xele, South Africa’s top cop has been frequently quoted in the media saying the security is ready to deal with crime, and a special unit within the South African Police to deal with soccer hooligans has been set up.