Saturday, June 12, 2010

How Soon They Forget District Six

In the lead-up to the World Cup, human rights campaigners say South African authorities have forcibly moved thousands of the impoverished to settlements in order to present a good image of the nation. Cape Town city council officials deny the allegations.  From the Wapo article:
Shirley Fisher says she was evicted from a hostel near a stadium where soccer's biggest stars train. Natasha Flores says she was driven out of squatters' quarters near a new $450 million stadium in one of Cape Town's busiest tourist areas.

Both ended up in Blikkiesdorp, a settlement of corrugated-iron shacks ringed by a concrete fence, home to hundreds of evicted families. Many residents say there is only one reason they wound up in this bleak place, which in Afrikaans means "tin-can town."  "The World Cup," said Fisher, without hesitation.

"Why can't they take the money they spent on the stadiums and use it to build houses, not the dollhouses we now live in, but proper houses?" demanded Margaret Bennet, 45, who lives with eight relatives in a shack the size of a walk-in closet. "The World Cup may be important for the high-powered people, but it means nothing for us on the streets. We are living in a concentration camp," said Padru Morris, 47, another resident.

President Jacob Zuma's government argues that the billions it has spent on building stadiums and improving infrastructure will create jobs, raise the standard of living and showcase South Africa's progress. Many of the poor, though, say the government has misplaced its priorities. They expect their lives to change little as a result of their nation holding the world's most-watched sporting event.

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