While soccer fans around the world cheer on their teams and blow their vuvuzelas, human rights are being violated in South Africa.
Amnesty International reports that there has been an increase in police brutality towards street traders, the homeless, refugees and migrants living in townships, or slums. In order to present a clean and beautiful host nation to the world, police have attempted to remove the ugly or unpleasant aspects of the country by raiding and destroying informal housing. Such actions are in violation of South African law that prohibits forced eviction.
In addition, police have removed homeless people and street vendors from areas around the World Cup venues. Penalties for violations include fines of up to Rand 10,000 (US$1,300) as well as up to six months in jail.
Amnesty points out:
Some temporary employment opportunities appear to have been created in the preparations for the World Cup and there may be a longer-term benefit from the development of improved urban public transport infrastructure.
However, protesters from poor communities have continued to raise concerns that the majority of South Africans are still being excluded from the benefits of hosting the World Cup.
The requirements under the “FIFA by-laws” which create extensive exclusion zones for informal economic activity are seen as particularly prejudicial in the context of a country where a large group of South Africans are totally reliant on the informal sector economy for their survival.
The next World Cup in 2014 will be hosted by Brazil, a country that also suffers from poverty and has a huge informal sector. Will the government “clean up” the country to present a positive image at the expense of its citizens? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: Impoverished citizens are not eyesores, and their rights need not be violated in order to host the World Cup.