Wednesday, July 15, 2009

South Africa’s loss would be Africa’s disgrace.

Reports coming out of South Africa said that some 70,000 construction workers in South Africa have gone on strike, halting work on stadiums being built for the 2010 World Cup.

Unions are threatening to wreck the tournament if their demands for a 13% wage increase are not met. Organizers say they are confident the grounds will still be ready, unless the strike continues for months.

Last Monday judges rejected a request from the employers to outlaw the strike, which unions say is indefinite.

At present most of the workers are being paid 2,500 rand ($310; £192) a month.

For me, this is a bad time for our South African brothers to go up in arms. They must look at the bigger picture.

Let’s face it: many people – notably many in the West – would want Africa (never mind South Africa) to fluff this chance at making a good impression. This would enable them deal Sepp Blatter’s so-called 'African craze' a mortal blow and also discredit his political campaign.

Five entirely new stadiums are being built for the World Cup, while five are being modernised.

Despite the fact that the monies being paid may indeed be too little, I’ll like Danny Jordan and his cronies to settle this in camera for the good of the African image.

South Africa’s loss is also Africa’s disgrace. And I think he knows that.

"The construction workers have been the lifeblood of the 2010 Fifa World Cup project," he said in a statement.

"Their hard work has ensured that we are on track to meet our deadlines and that our stadiums will be among the best in the world next year."

And even though South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers, whose members include construction workers, has rejected the 10% wage increase offer from employers, I still insist that if would take giving them these allowances to save face for the continent, it must be done.

Looking back to Ghana 2008, Michelleti and Co were in charge of the Accra Stadium project. They did have issues with the labourers but these whimpers were quickly smothered before they became screams. Whether this was done by fair or foul means, the company worked with authorities to make sure that word never came out.

"The government must help us, otherwise we are going to delay 2010. We will strike until 2011," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka is quoted as saying.

What he is forgetting is that after he has delayed the World Cup and his grandcgildren become Fifa executives in half a century, they would look back and curse him for his myopia.

Then, he – and all the striking workers – would turn in their graves and gnash their teeth at an opportunity spawned.