Debate on the Successful Hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup | Western Cape Government


Debate on the Successful Hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup

17 August 2010

Speaker, this is an important debate. Firstly, it is an opportunity to express deep gratitude to everyone involved in this triumph for South Africa. From the Local Organising Committee, to Bafana Bafana, to every worker on a construction site, every volunteer, and everyone in between - thank you all for an unparalleled team effort. We made history.

This is also an opportunity to think about what we learned from hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

We all agree that the World Cup was an unparalleled success. The question is: How did we do it? How did we deliver a global event of this scale, in record time, when many people still cannot access basic services after 16 years of democracy?

The answer is simple: We had an immutable deadline set down by FIFA. The world expected the tournament to kick off at 16h00 on 11th June in Johannesburg, so we did what it took to make it happen.

World Cup deliverables were exempted from normal bureaucratic processes, and dealt with as 'special cases'. All spheres of government aligned their efforts. We made co-operative governance work. The best project managers were brought on board. Deviations from time-consuming procedures were often granted. We did this because every other risk paled into insignificance compared with the catastrophe of missing deadlines.

The World Cup was a rare case in which all role players were incentivised to deliver quickly. This incentive is usually absent. In fact, government is most often incentivised to deliver slowly, if at all, because there is a greater risk in not adhering to complex, bureaucratic procedures than there is in not delivering. Lawyers point out the legal pitfalls of not complying with every step of myriad laws and regulations. Politicians and officials comply because taking a short-cut is a greater risk than missing a deadline.

This is why, 11 months ago, I met President Zuma to brief him on the many laws and regulations that make it so difficult to deliver services to the poor. He has undertaken to review these laws and bring about changes where necessary. This is greatly encouraging and we look forward to seeing the outcome of this review.

Of course you must strike a balance between regulation and delivery. Too much discretion - in a context of endemic corruption - is open to abuse. Corruption hampers delivery even more than over-regulation does. And it makes a country poor.

There are no easy answers. But we must now go beyond talking. We must set immutable deadlines to meet targets in addressing social challenges. If we can learn this lesson from the World Cup, and apply it in a way that does not erode our constitutional democracy, it will have been more than worth it.

Understanding how we did what we did is the first lesson. The second is understanding what the World Cup's significance is and how we can replicate it beyond the tournament.

Speaker, I think that most people will agree that the single greatest achievement of the World Cup was the way it changed stereotyped perceptions. We demonstrated that Africa is not "The Hopeless Continent" that The Economist magazine said we were ten years ago.

We showed the Afro-pessimists that we have enormous potential. And we started to believe in ourselves again. We started to believe that we can be a successful democracy with a growing economy.

How do we keep this momentum going? How can we erase the negative perceptions forever?

It is all about the choices we make.

In a new book Greg Mills concludes that most of Africa's people are poor because their leaders have made policy choices that lead to impoverishment. As he says:

"Bad choices have been made because better choices in the broad public interest were in very many cases not in the leaders' personal and often financial interest."

In other words, any desire to eliminate poverty is eclipsed by the desire of politicians to accumulate personal wealth through corruption.

I agree with Zwelinzima Vavi when he says that South Africa is becoming a predatory state. And the current assault on media freedom - which is being publicised world-wide - is undoing all that we achieved in the World Cup. We are starting to conform to the negative stereotype once again.

The only way to turn the tide is for our citizens to take responsibility for exercising the power they have in a democracy to effect change. As Greg Mills concludes in his book:

"That?leaders were permitted to get away with ruinous, self-interested decisions can be attributed?to a relative lack of? bottom-up pressure on leadership to make better choices?"

In the final analysis, it is the voters who will decide whether we banish negative perceptions of our country once and for all.

It is a very good thing for politicians to fear voters. If we feared FIFA, and the risk of missing its deadlines, think how much more we could achieve if government and politicians really feared the voters. In a democracy voters have the choice.

If we have learnt this lesson from the World Cup, it will be a legacy beyond anything we could ever have anticipated.

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