The Johannesburg Sunday Times
Thanks, SA, for giving us your best
Jul 11, 2010 12:00 AM | By CAMERON DUODU
So a dirty foul by Uruguayan player Luis Suarez prevented Ghana from going forth into the World Cup semifinals.
We in the rest of Africa have a vested interest in your ability
Sure, all Africa’s hopes in the tournament died with Ghana’s exit.
But who could have foretold that South Africans – some of whom had burnt other Africans alive in 2008 – would suddenly be cheering their hearts out for the players of another African country?
Xenophobia, where is thy sting, then?
And what happened to the crimes that the world’s media repeatedly assured us would make South Africa rue the day she bid for the World Cup?
Okay, it’s early days. Yes, I’ve read of the rumours that the xenophobia warriors are biding their time, and may still unleash their evil violence on fellow Africans. Again.
Nevertheless, I wish to thank the people of South Africa who were kind enough to re-christen the players of Ghana as “Bafana-Ba-Ghana”.
I heard the thousands of vuvuzelas play in unison, willing Ghana to win the crucial match against Uruguay.
I saw on television, the way many South Africans had donned Ghana’s colours.
I saw the way the Black Stars were mobbed when they visited Nelson Mandela and when they paid their respects to his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Such scenes went around the world. They told everyone that the cynics who believe African unity is skin-deep are wrong.
Great things are sometimes revealed by small things. There were tears in the eyes of many a Ghanaian when the love that was exhibited towards our team – and our country – became so indubitably expressed by South Africans.
The World Cup came. And it now goes the way of history.
But not before it showed the world that Africa is one continent with one people, irrespective of the fact that we have so many different languages, cultures and economic backgrounds.
Who put it in the mind of a South African cartoonist to paint Ghana’s flag, with the black star in the middle of it changed into the map of Africa?
Who told the little kid in the film at http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/video/2010/jul/05/world-cup-2010-south-africa-ghana to say, “I love you Ghanaians, too much”?
These things must crystallise a few things for the government of South Africa, namely: you have earned a great deal of respect – and goodwill – from the World Cup. You couldn’t have bought it if you had paid foreign advertisers R10-million on a campaign of “re-branding”.
Use that goodwill, please. Do not allow it to be dissipated into nothing. And the way you can make it take root is to invest hugely in the needs of your people.
Redouble your efforts to provide affordable housing to the poor.
Do not consider it “inflationary” – as the economists will claim – if you pour money into providing the townships with clean water, electricity, good roads and communications facilities.
Already, your health services are so good that an industry called “health tourism” has sprouted in your country. Make sure the good health facilities are also enjoyed by all the people. It is their labour, after all, that paid for the good facilities that the “health tourists” come to enjoy.
When you refocus the attention of your entire government into providing these things, you will ensure that the legacy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup is a true and lasting one.
We in the rest of Africa have a vested interest in your ability to achieve these objectives. We know that xenophobia cannot find a place in the hearts of a populace whose basic needs are not left to the whims of market forces, but in the philosophy that has always been inherent in the struggle for freedom in South Africa, namely “the welfare of the people is the supreme law”.
Thank you and good luck, dear South Africa.
- Duodu is a Ghanaian born journalist and author now based in the United Kingdom.