South Africa: The World Cup is Coming to Grahamstown

The South African town of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Municipality of Makana, may not be hosting any of the matches of the 2010 World Cup, but its residents are equally excited about the upcoming tournament. During the month-long event, the city will also host its annual National Arts Festival, as well as provide a Public Viewing Area (PVA) at the local Miki Yili Stadium for its residents and other visitors.

Grahamstown, South Africa by Pierre Nel and used under a Creative Commons license.

Participants in the Grocott's Mail's citizen journalism program called My Makana have started to write about how the World Cup will affect their country as a whole, as well as about the impact on their local community.

One such citizen journalist, Thozamile Fana is a bit skeptical about what the World Cup will mean for the country:

A lot of promises were made with regards to how the upcoming soccer world cup will benefit the South African nation. However, other than the stadiums, which are likely to be white elephants if the authorities do not have tangible plans outlining how the infrastructure will be used after the tournament, there seems to be little hope that the locals will benefit from it.

Closer to home, many of the citizen journalists wrote about these public viewing areas, of which Grahamstown will be 1 of 6 towns in the Eastern Cape to provide a place for people to gather and watch the games and where the Makana Municipality has spent approximately 100,000 Rand (approximately US$13,000) on the project. A part of the project is the invitation to local artists to submit a proposal to perform in the PVA. However, citizen journalist Mziyanda Bulani notes that there has been very little information distributed by interviewing some of these artists:

According to Mathews Nontyi, a local performing artist, the P.V.A is a waste of money. He argues that the event is less than 20 days away but they know nothing about the PVA's programme. “It is an event for only the connected artists and the majority of local artists will be left out of it.”

Like any big event, local organizers have had to place restrictions on the sale of alcohol, ensure that there is enough water available for patrons, provide ample security, and organize sufficient traffic control.

The timing of the World Cup that coincides with the expanded Arts Festival was expected to provide an economic boom for the local area. Even though the activities planned by the local organizing committee have created jobs, their duties will end in August after the programs wraps up, notes citizen journalist Pumelelo Frans. However, these events also have disrupted the work of others in the informal sector because more restrictions have been placed on their operations. Frans spoke with one local resident, who is ” worried about hawkers who have been driven off the streets in town arguing that some of them are bread winners in their families.”

The streets of Grahamstown by caribbeanfreephoto and used under a Creative Commons license.

Opportunities for local volunteers was also expected to be made available, writes citizen journalist Luvuyo Gcule. However, the local agency that was to have recruited volunteers had to close due to funding difficulties.

The tourism industry in Grahamstown has been preparing itself for an influx of tourists to participate in the Arts Festival and take in the World Cup atmosphere at the PVA. Citizen journalist Natasha Plaatjes spoke with several hotels in the town to find out about any change in the amount of business. Some have reported that there have been a lot of inquiries, but not an equal amount of bookings. While other hotels like the Victoria Mews is fully booked, but the manager Dumisani Banda says that the guests are their regular customers and unrelated to the World Cup festivities. Banda is positive that:

tourists will show interest in Grahamstown as it is only an hour- and-half from the Port Elizabeth world cup stadium. According to Banda, Grahamstown and the surrounding areas has a variety of facilities to offer tourists.

“A public viewing area (PVA) has been set up with a big screen TV at Miki Yili stadium in the township,” said Makkink. The PVA is meant to create a world cup stadium atmosphere for those who do not to afford to buy world cup tickets.

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