This afternoon, I made the 1000km trip from Johannesburg to East London
(that’s a town in South Africa, not an area in England). While en route, and mindful of the fact that we were at 34 000 feet (or 422 432 metric ankles) above sea level, I attempted lofty conversation with my neighbour, a friendly black chap who drives trucks for a living.
I can see the question forming on your lips from here. Why is he actually mentioning this guy’s race? Well, I’ll tell you.
It’s no secret that most of South Africa’s soccer supporters are black. I wanted to get a man-in-the-street’s opinion of the World Cup and the associated going’s on.
“So, are you or any of your friends going to a soccer match?” I asked him, remembering he would probably go to see a match in the nearest centre, Port Elizabeth, approximately 350km from East London.
“No ways,” he replied emphatically. “It is too expensive. For the cheapest seat, it’s over R400, and that is a seat. in a bad position And then you must have travel money and a place to stay, and a shirt.”
I further gleaned that the shirt or some other item, to identify you as a supporter of your team was very important. When I asked him why the shirt appeared more important than, say, the vuvuzela or flag, he responded thus:
“No, the shirt is Adidas or Puma, and they sell it for R500 or R600.”
“And people buy this shirt at that price?”
“The supporters who have money, yes.”
I’d just found another reason why I wasn’t a supporter. Financially, they’re WAY out of my league.
My new friend then volunteered with ill-disguised disdain, “But the big bosses, and the government officials, they get lots of free stuff.”
“Like what,” I asked with increasing curiosity.
“They get free tickets and free shirts. And they get BIG salaries, too.” He even said ‘BIG’ in capital letters for effect.
“So you will watch on TV at a pub or at home?”
“Eish! Not at the pub. They make everything too expensive. I’ll watch at home if I’m not driving.”
Landing in East London terminated our conversation, but as I drove through the Sunday afternoon city, I couldn’t help remembering my thoughts during and after the elections in 1994. I also think that this situation parallels with alarming accuracy, South Africa’s bigger picture.
As predicted by most people with a little savvy, the ANC/COSATU’s alliance and rule has been less about improving South Africa and the lot of its citizens, and far more about greed, self-aggrandisement and self-enrichment.
If it weren’t so, we wouldn’t have the upheaval caused by despairing and angry residents, violently protesting the lack of service delivery. We also wouldn’t have unions doing irreparable harm to our economy with their ‘industrial action’.