Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign launches the Poor People's World Cup

Prior to the start of the World Cup, the South African government evicted the urban poor and rounded up the homeless. This, in the context of growing police violence against homeless and shack dwellers' movements.

Commenting on this, I expressed concern that we could see a crackdown on dissidents similar to the one launched by China before the Olympic Games.

The Landless Peoples' Movement (LPM) shared a similar worry;
We are very worried about the World Cup. Billions are wasted on the World Cup, billions that should have gone to meet the most urgent need of the poor. The government tells us that we must ‘feel it’ but in Protea South we don’t even have electricity. Some of us are in hiding from the police. People have been shot and two people have died in recent days.
However, those affected by the crackdowns and evictions are fighting back. Moreover, they are doing so in an extremely positive way. Right-wing fears of racist violence against white tourists are unjustified, and it is only the idea of the World Cup as a corporate money spinner which is under attack.

This is why the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, one of the oldest post-apartheid social movements, have launched the Poor Peoples' World Cup;
At the shadow side of the mountain, 36 teams from 40 different communities came together yesterday to play the one thing they like the most: SOCCER!

On the 13th of June 2010, the Poor People’s World Cup successfully kicked-off their first day of matches at the Avendale soccer fields, next to Athlone stadium in Cape Town. Early in the morning, the first minibuses with soccer teams arrived from all over Cape Town to play their first games in this Poor People’s tournament. Everybody was excited and the atmosphere was amazing, considering the bad weather forecasts.

At the meeting where the programme of the day was discussed, the coordinators explained that this tournament is not only for the soccer teams, but also for the whole community and for the people who struggle everyday against water and electricity cut-offs and against evictions from their homes and working places. The message during the meeting was clear: while the poor people in Cape Town and in South Africa as a whole are suffering, the rich are enjoying themselves in the expensive stadiums at the expenses of the poor.

 After we stood still at these facts, we moved on with inspiring speeches from Martin Legassick (housing activist/ UWC Emeritus Professor), Michael Premo (Housing is a Human Right) and Ashraf Cassiem (Chairperson/coordinator of the Anti-Eviction Campaign). Besides all the 36 teams and their supporters from their communities, this event also attracted local and international journalists, researchers and international radio and television broadcasters.

All the traders and communities – that were negatively affected by FIFA related urban renewal projects and by the implemented by-laws – were invited to this tournament: a tournament that is FREE and open to everybody. Because this tournament is by and for the local communities, international branches are the only ones that are excluded from these areas as they robbed our informal traders from their livelihoods! All the money that tourist spend there, won’t benefit the local economy but will flow back overseas.

Therefore, in contrast to the FIFA World Cup, we have created our own contra-World Cup for the poor communities by the poor communities that is not exploiting people or marginalizing people, but involving people and creating new spaces of exposure and participation.

For the second day of the Poor People’s World Cup, we invite all the local and international media to our tournament, to provide our soccer teams and our (evicted) communities and traders a platform were they can give voice to their stories, their struggles and what brought them together to join the PPWC and the march (23 June). We further invite international football teams and scouts to come to our games, to talk and to play football with our local teams and to fulfil the dreams of many soccer players; as this will create a once in a life time opportunity for them to meet their favourite soccer teams.

To all the tourists: don’t  stay only in the controlled spaces bounded by FIFA rules and regulations, but move beyond these areas to experience the true spirit of what the game of soccer is all about!! Come to our Poor People’s World Cup next Sunday in Delft and support your favourite team/country!!! Through this support you can let these communities feel and know that people care about them and that they are not forgotten.
We hope to welcome you all (again) next Sunday at 10 AM at the Delft Central Sports Field (main road in Delft)!
Football fans who are in South Africa and wish to support the Poor Peoples' World Cup should contact one of the AEC coordinators. Pamela Beukes: 078 5563003, Jane Roberts, coordinator for the Delft area: 074 2384236, Mncedisi Twalo: 078 5808646, Gary Hartzenberg: 072 3925859, or Willie Heyn: 073 1443619.

I would strongly urge that people do so. This is an extremely innovative act in defiance of state suppression and capitalist greed, and it deserves to be a success.