Residents of South Africa Forced to Live in 'Concentration Camps' in Advance of World Cup

↵The start of the World Cup is just 70 days away, which gives media outlets around the world more than two months to cover the good, and the bad, of South Africa. Chalk up The Guardian's story about Blikkiesdorp, a "temporary relocation area" outside of Cape Town, as one of the bad. ↵

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↵Unfortunately, this story is not news. Blikkiesdorp has existed for almost two years now, originally constructed as housing for those living in hotels, shelters or on the streets of one of South Africa's largest cities. It's a noble premise, in theory, for the government to provide housing for those who cannot afford it. But in the real world, it's become a concentration camp. ↵

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↵⇥"It's a dumping place," said Jane Roberts, who lives in the sparsely furnished structure known as M49. "They took people from the streets because they don't want them in the city for the World Cup. Now we are living in a concentration camp." ↵⇥

↵⇥Roberts, 54, added: "It's like the devil runs this place. We have no freedom. The police come at night and beat adults and children. South Africa isn't showing the world what it's doing to its people. It only shows the World Cup." ↵⇥

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↵It doesn't really hit you until you look at the photos. M49. The area is a grid of 3x6 meter tin shacks, given a letter and number as an "address" and separated by a few feet of dirt for a yard that includes a makeshift fence or piece of cloth for privacy. There are no paved roads between the homes, and barely enough space for a car, if any of the inhabitants had one to begin with. Several reports have made reference to District 9 – this is the real-life equivalent. ↵

↵This isn't the first time that a government has rounded up homeless people in advance of hosting a huge sporting event. In Beijing, hundreds of thousands of residents, migrant workers and small shop owners were displaced or evicted in advance of the Olympic Games, with many sent to similar camps outside of their city limits. Homeless were rounded up in Vancouver as well, leading to some protest organizations creating the Poverty Olympics for the area's dispossessed. ↵

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↵So Blikkiesdorp is not a new concept, which is all the more reason to shine a light on nations that sweep their problems away to put on a show of prosperity and excitement as the world comes to celebrate the spirit of sport. In this case, the beautiful game is leaving an ugly wake in its path. ↵

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↵⇥"When rich people come to the World Cup they must come to Blikkiesdorp first to see for themselves how people are living. It's worse than apartheid." ↵
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↵There are obviously two sides to every story like this, and the feature does discuss the jobs that were created to build the stadiums and upgrade the city's infrastructure in advance of this summer's influx of tourists. Now that the stadiums are done – or nearly completed – many of those workers have been laid off, and some political activists are concerned that they will be left with beautiful new stadiums that cast a shadow over the country's real problems. ↵
↵⇥[Andile Mngxitama, a political commentator and columnist] said: "We never needed the World Cup. It is a jamboree by the politicians to focus attention away from the 16 years of democracy that have not delivered for the majority of black people in this country. We'll be trapped with white elephant stadiums." ↵
↵As bad as the living conditions are in Blikkiesdorp, a report from October points out that those who live in the metal shacks are continually harassed by those even less fortunate: ↵
↵⇥"The refugees now have what others want. The same thing happened to us. People would bang on our windows and threaten to throw us out." ↵⇥

↵⇥Jina said the refugees have been moved to a place of "crime and drugs next to the bush of evil" -- a reference to the vast shrub-covered area surrounding Blikkiesdorp, where she and a friend stumbled across a murdered child's body. ↵⇥

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↵I wish posts like this could end with some type of rallying cry, like suggesting that one dollar from every ticket sold could go to upgrade the broken toilets and lack of showers in a place like Blikkiesdorp. The 10 South African stadiums average 56,000 fans per venue– assuming full capacity for an event like the World Cup – multiplied by 64 matches, would raise $3,584,000 to help those in need. But that seems incredibly pie in the sky, especially when you realize the venues were built for $1.76 billion and Blikkiesdorp was constructed with under $4.5 million. ↵

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↵With ESPN broadcasting the World Cup, it will be a difficult balance for the network to celebrate the games, yet still focus their human interest stories on places like Blikkiesdorp – something I trust the likes of Sal Masekela or Jeremy Schaap will find time to do. All one can hope for is that awareness is followed by relief. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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