There were many things I was unprepared for when coming to Africa’s World Cup.
After experiencing the surprising friendliness and cool efficiency of Germany in 2006, when I learnt I was off to South Africa my mind immediately turned to issues of practicality.
How the hell was I going to get decent internet speeds to do my job? Am I going to get robbed blind when I get off the plane? How the hell will I be able to juggle TV producing, online reporting, radio interviews … and sleep?
Sure the Internet issue is an ongoing drama but all the rest appear to be completely completely baseless.
But what I was totally unprepared for? The unbridled, joyous, passionate nature of South Africans and how I know they’re going to put on a stunning World Cup, even before a ball is kicked.
I spent three hours shooting my story in the centre of Cape Town today – where there was a free concert to open proceedings before tomorrow’s first World Cup match.
Locals warned me not to walk around carrying two DSLRs and a video camera as I’d be a target. I was asked several times by our local crew if I had a fixer. I went expecting a good concert but I was a little cagey about being robbed. Now all I feel is this joy rubbing off on me, usually from people who, by our standards, have almost nothing.
Tens of thousands of people crammed into the city – only 25,000 fit into the official FIFA fan fest. There they danced, they laughed, they all wore South Africa’s rainbow flag and the gold of their football team – and they beamed with pride.
Here in Cape Town there was no Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas or Shakira – they’re performing in Johannesburg as I type. Local acts entertained the crowd, and it appeared to me that’s just the way they liked it. Young and old welcomed the world with huge smiles, young children flocked to my camera, teenagers hung around just to watch what I was doing. If people caught me filming them as they danced, they just danced better, prouder, with even more dignity.
This is a nation that is re-birthing – slowly and with plenty of growing pains – but underlying it all is a deep sense of self-belief and hope for the future.
While so much of our time in media is spent looking at the costs, benefits, winners & losers in any given World Cup – there’s always a massive social and cultural impact that you simple can’t understand unless you go.
In Germany it was the return of a sense of nationalism – where Germans could again be proud of their great nation and fly the flag of Deutschland without fear or shame.
South Africa is exploding in a cacophony of chaotic joy, passion, excitement and pride – and while there are mountains to climb, this nation is ready to climb them without fear nor favour.
As I sit in my apartment hearing the African beats and vuvuzelas waft over from the Waterfront, I’m strapping myself in for one hell of a ride for the next month…
While I can’t take credit for this piece it’s a surprisingly useful guide to South African words and phrases.
To be honest I thought the ‘howzit bru?!’ was about as South African as ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie’ is Australian – but I was way wrong. This IS how South Africans speak to each other, and I must admit, it’s contagious!
I’ll leave the rest to AFP:
Want to have a lekker time at the World Cup, chomping boerewors at a braai on the Veld or downing a rooibos at the shebeen next to the robot?
Here’s a newcomer’s guide to some uniquely South African words and phrases for football fans heading to the month-long tournament.
- Howzit: A universal greeting, a short-form version of “How is it going?”
- Bru: Abbreviation of “brother” used to address friends and colleagues as in “Howzit bru?”
- Yebo: The Zulu word for Yes which is now used across the board.
- Sharp: A sign-off signalling an agreement as well as farewell, often said twice.
- Ag shame: An expression of sympathy or annoyance.
- Eish!: An exclamation expressing exasperation.
- Lekker: An Afrikaans word meaning superb or fantastic which is applied equally to a person, object or event.
- Braai: An originally Afrikaans word for barbecue, which often features a sizzling boerewors, a curled spiced sausage.
- Biltong: Dried meat – usually beef but also from other animals as ostrich, antelope or buffalo – which is eaten as a snack, often accompanied by a beer or glass of wine.
- Rooibos: Red bush tea, South Africa’s unofficial national brew which is grown in the southwestern Cape region.
- Shebeens: Makeshift bars in the townships which sell often super strength homemade brews.
- Muti: A traditional tree or plant-based medicine. Its practioners are known as nyangas.
- Sangoma: Traditional Zulu healers or sorcerers who often summon ancestral spirits to foretell the future.
- Townships: Black-only neighbourhoods under apartheid that were once mainly shantytowns but now include middle-class areas. The most famous is Soweto, short-form for SOuth WEst TOwnships, near Johannesburg.
- Jozi: The abbreviation for the largest city of Johannesburg which is also known as Joburg.
- Veld or Veldt: An Afrikaans words meaning shrubland, it now generally refers to the countryside as a whole.
- Robot: Traffic lights.
Lekker eh? I’ll see you in the Veld for a Braai, eh bru?
While the World Cup promises riches and ongoing social benefits to South Africa’s fledgling democracy, all it takes is a 30 minute drive from the centre of Cape Town to see how much work is left to be done.
After a day of glorious sunshine cold and gloomy weather set in across the city, in what would be a fitting backdrop for a visit to Blikkiesdorp.
Blikkiesdorp – also known as Tin Can Camp – is the new home of some 3000 impoverished Cape Town residents moved out of World Cup areas by a government promising a better roof over their heads.
While Townships and shanty towns are still in abundance in the area, Blikkiesdorp has with it a feel of oppression as well as abject poverty.
For a quarter-of-a-mile surrounded by high steel fences, rows and rows of tiny one room tin shacks line up on the dirt, with only crudely sprayed on numbers telling them apart.
On this day in mid-winter, a biting wind rattled through the camp. Residents are wrapped up against the cold both inside and out of poorly built homes.
I met with Blikkiesdorp community representative Jane Roberts aka ‘Aunty Jane’, who politely asked me to wait so she could invite others from the community to hear our interview. That way, she said, they would be assured she was properly representing the views of her neighbours.
She and her grandson share one of the tiny shacks, with only a gas bottle stove, a TV with rabbit ears and a few personal belongings crammed inside.
There’s no sink, no toilet, and no heating. Despite this, she wears a bright red jumper with her hair all wrapped up and looks distinguished beyond her financial situation.
Aunty Jane says residents were lured here by the government with the promise of a proper home, but no most people are desperate to leave.
Tuberculosis and HIV are rife. Unemployment is high but there’s no transport nearby to help people get to and from a job. She says the police are rude and beat people at night regularly if they try to leave.
Jane says it’s like a concentration camp and she feels little has changed since Apartheid.
The World Cup is of no interest to her as it will only benefit FIFA and the rich, while the poor get poorer.
The story of Blikkiesdorp is not unique. The Western Cape anti-eviction campaign tells of thousands of forced evictions and the regular introduction of new by-laws that limit the rights of the poor.
Spokesman Ashraf Cassiem says bread and transport are getting more expensive, access to water increasingly requires pre-paid vouchers, and forced evictions will continue even after the World Cup.
“The money they used to build the one stadium in Green Point, could have resolved the housing issue in the Western Cape, in a good meaningful way”.
My driver Ahmed, a Cape Coloured who grew up in the notorious District Six, says in some ways this fledgling democracy is simply applying a ‘reverse Apartheid’.
“It used to be first the whites, then the coloured, then the blacks,” he tells me.
“Now it’s the blacks, then the whites, and last the Coloured”.
While most expect lasting benefits from this World Cup, there’s remains a great deal to be done to realise the South African dream of a true Rainbow Nation.
Special thanks to my video guru Sean Curran for cleaning up my editing – now go to sleep Sean!