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]
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