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World Cup shame? Visiting South Africa's 'town of unwanted people'

Apr 2, 2010, 3:00 PM EDT

We’ve done plenty of posts here about the negative side of the World Cup; the marauding baboons, the vendors hawking anti-stab vests, the likelihood that soccer fans will be eaten by sharks. But while all of those stories contain an element of offbeat humor, here’s one that doesn’t. The Guardian had a great piece on Thursday on Blikkiesdorp, the camp in Cape Town, South Africa, which is in reality little more than a concentration camp for residents forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for World Cup construction projects. Already two years in the making, many call it “Tin Can Town,” and residents say it’s worse than the townships created by the white minority government during racial apartheid in the 1990s.

“It’s a dumping place,” said Jane Roberts, who lives in the sparsely furnished structure known as M49. “They took people from the streets because they don’t want them in the city for the World Cup. Now we are living in a concentration camp.”

Roberts, 54, added: “It’s like the devil runs this place. We have no freedom. The police come at night and beat adults and children. South Africa isn’t showing the world what it’s doing to its people. It only shows the World Cup.”

With less than three months to go until the World Cup begins, the press is beginning to arrive in increasing numbers. But will it shine a light on all corners of South Africa? ESPN, which has the briadcast rights, bears a particular responsibility to show what is going on behind the scenes. The situation at Bikkiesdorp seems particularly awful; the camp of one-room shacks immediately reminded me of the film District 9. And indeed, the Guardian picked up on that as well.

In view of cloud-capped mountains, Blikkiesdorp was built in 2008 for an estimated R32m (2.9m pounds) to provide “emergency housing” for about 650 people who had been illegally occupying buildings. To visitors, the column after column of one-room shacks, each spraypainted with a designated code number, are disturbingly reminiscent of District 9, last year’s hit science fiction film about space aliens forced to live in an informal Johannesburg settlement. Residents said this week there were about 15,000 people struggling to live in about 3,000 of the wood and iron structures, with more arriving all the time. City officials claimed these figures were inaccurate but said the site was designed to cater for 1,667 families in total.

In some cases families of six or seven people are crammed into living spaces of three by six metres. They complain that the corrugated walls swelter in summer temperatures of 40C and offer little protection from the cold in winter. Tuberculosis and HIV are rife. Babies have been born at Blikkiesdorp and, still unknown to the state, officially do not exist.

I’m not a big soccer fan, but I can’t imagine getting any amount of joy out of watching the World Cup, even if I were. The South African government says that the Cup will transform their country. But at what cost? Hopefully, as South Africa climbs onto the world stage, the world will find a way to help people like those in Bikkiesdorp..
Life in ‘Tin Can Town’ for the South Africans evicted ahead of World Cup [The Guardian]
Residents of South Africa Forced to Live in ‘Concentration Camps’ in Advance of World Cup [The Sporting Blog]

  1. gareth kingdon - Apr 4, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    I was Just flicking through the net on my day off and I came across your responce. My name is Gareth I’m the photographer who worked with the Guardian on this story. If you would like to see more images of life in Blikkiesdorp then they are on my website at Blikkiesdorp for me sums up the current situation in South Africa regarding evictions. I live there for 2 weeks with Jane Roberts who was quoted in the artical. Visit the website of the western Cape anti-eviction.

  2. nania - May 22, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    Shame on south africa!!!!!poligamist pig zoma & CO don’t give a **** about it’s people.

  3. Hippy chick - May 24, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    A total disgrace, children are being raped,people forced to live in misery for what? a game….a game of football…. these are real people, not a game. South Africa be ashamed very ashamed, you have spent billions to host a game….. little to assist and support your people, have you learnt nothing from YOUR CITIZENS years of suffering and misery, that you now would happily worsen your peoples plight. Do you believe you will recoup even a third of the money back you have LAVISHED on this GAME, may the lord have mercy on your souls and that of your people. I am a football fan, but I will not be watching one single match this time around, SHAME ON YOU A SHAME FOR YOUR PEOPLE……

  4. dee - May 24, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    just posted my views, SHAME ON THEM

  5. Lynn - Jun 17, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    I was wondering when someone would notice this!!I live in Paarl-East Cape Town area and here it is just as worse as in blikkies town.I am a very angry coloured woman that is just thinking of ways to help our community.There are so many joung men and woman that do not have jobs,that cannont find jobs because of affirmative action!When will this be over!!!I am also without a job because of that,applied for a job at the Minicipality as a clerk and the outcome was NO INDICATION OF RACE?Am i not a south african why should i fill in what race i am to get a job!!I want to set up a project for our joung people infact everybody is welcome but I need help to get the ball rolling,can somebody out there HELP ME PLS(SOS)
    Lynn M