Post-World Cup letter demands justice for South Africa's poor

By staff writers
July 12, 2010

In the aftermath of a disappointing final in the 2010 World Cup, in which Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 in a football game littered with cynical fouls, attention is now shifting to the last legacy of the global tournament for development in South Africa.

The South Africa spent a record $4.1 billion on preparations for the World Cup, and has benefitted from positive international publicity and a domestic boost to morale for many people.

But the plight of the country's poor has grown worse in the lead-up to the tournament. Many thousands of people have been displaced to make way for World Cup projects, and whole communities are denied access to public services, says development charity War on Want.

The NGO is promoting a letter to the South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom to demand an end to evictions and to protect the rights of South Africans to decent housing and basic services.

War on Want will present its letter to the High Commissioner following the conclusion of the tournament - which ended on Sunday 11 July with the Final and a spectacular closing ceremony attended by ex-president Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and a host of dignitaries.

The War on Want letter is reproduced below, and can be signed by going to:

Dr Zola Skweyiya
South African High Commissioner
to the United Kingdom

July 2010

Your Excellency

I am writing to you from the charity War on Want to express my deep concern at the rate of evictions seen in South Africa in preparation for the 2010 World Cup. We are particularly concerned at the increased rate of evictions around World Cup sites, which has seen many thousands of people evicted from their homes and thousands of traders evicted from their places of work.

Furthermore, as you are aware, billions of pounds were invested in the games, yet South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, with over 40% of the population living below the international poverty line. I thus want to use this opportunity to express my broader concern that this poverty and the provision of basic public services to all South Africans must be urgently addressed.

Many of those who were evicted from around World Cup sites were sent to temporary relocation areas or transit camps, such as Blikkiesdorp in Cape Town. The conditions in these camps are deplorable, with paper-thin walls providing no protection from the elements. There is insufficient sanitation, a lack of adequate access to health and educational facilities and limited opportunities for work.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign has been working in some of these transit camps to prevent people being evicted and to lobby for improved conditions. War on Want has worked in partnership and solidarity with the Anti-Eviction Campaign since 2008. War on Want is an organisation fighting to end global poverty and to promote human rights, and was a staunch supporter of the struggle against apartheid. Our other partners in South Africa are Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape, Abahlali baseMjondolo KwaZulu-Natal, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, the Landless People’s Movement and Sikhula Sonke – social movements struggling for the provision of basic services, including housing, water and electricity, and for workers’ rights.

War on Want is calling for a thorough investigation into the evictions which took place in the months leading up to the World Cup, and an end to any further displacement. For those who have been evicted, War on Want calls for the provision of decent, accessible housing and compensation for all those affected. Finally, War on Want calls for the constitutional rights to housing and the provision of services to be prioritised and upheld for all South Africans.

Your Excellency, I look forward to hearing from you as to the action being taken by the South African government in this matter.

Yours sincerely

John Hilary
Executive Director

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