2010 IS A rather exciting prospect. Just think of that unifying patriotic fervour, and all those smiling spectators – pockets crammed with hard currency – streaming into SA from our sparkling, revamped airports. But that’s not all: according to government, we can also look forward to radically overhauled public transport and a vast infrastructure development programme.
Bearing all this in mind, I learnt with great concern from BBC earlier this week that the construction of two sorely-needed hospitals in the impoverished Northern Cape has been put on hold because money is being siphoned off to fund the Cup. Speaking on the matter, the spokeswoman for the provincial Health Department, Shirley Fielding, added that other provinces had also been affected.
Government’s determination to make the World Cup appear successful would thus supersede, as a priority, the provision of adequate healthcare to South Africans. This unacceptable conclusion is reinforced by the government’s refusal, on the grounds of “unaffordability”, to create a basic income grant for the impoverished masses while it simultaneously pours billions into World Cup-associated prestige projects such as the notorious Gautrain.
Those misused billions should instead be deployed in a serious, effective attempt to resolve the interminable social challenges that South Africa faces: dire poverty, Aids, abysmal education standards, an imploding health service, inadequate housing, piecemeal land restitution and rampant crime.
Government claims its 2010 legacy will be a vastly improved and developed infrastructure network but in the wake of so many corruption scandals this “legacy” points to being yet another opportunity for the ruling elite to pursue their callous programme of self-enrichment with impunity.
13 years after the advent of majority rule, millions of South Africans remain oppressed, suffering under the heavy weight of government apathy and indifference. Appalling living standards and a shocking quality of life continue to be the lot of far too many. This will not change with the construction of cavernous stadiums, slick trains and sprawling harbour enlargements.
Infrastructure’s importance – especially in a growing economy such as ours – cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, we live in a poverty- and Aids-stricken country where countless lives are at stake.
It is time for government to get its priorities right because until SA’s social maladies take precedence they tragically cannot be solved.