Themba Maseko - 3rd Annual National Partnership Conference

13 December 2008

Chairperson of the National Communication Partnership, Mr Nkenke Kekana
Co-chairperson Mr Nkwenkwe Nkomo
Members and delegates
Our partners from other parts of the continent

August is Women’s month in South Africa and I want take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to all the ladies who are with us here today. You are all special.

It is a privilege and an honour for me to address this 3rd annual conference of the 2010 National Communication Partnership.

Under the theme “ KE NAKO: AFRICA’S TIME HAS COME”  the conference takes place a few days after a three day Cabinet Lekgotla, which is a gathering of all senior decision makers in government.

Among many things discussed at the Lekgotla, Cabinet reiterated its commitment to ensure that everything is done to accelerate preparations to host both the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010  and called on all South Africans to work together to ensure that these events become a success.

The South African government is satisfied that all preparations are on track and that the FIFA Local Organising Committee (LOC), and the different spheres of government are putting their shoulders to the wheel to ensure that all the key deadlines are met. All preparations for 2010, including the delivery of infrastructure, are being closely monitored by an Inter-Ministerial Committee that reports to Cabinet, to ensure that we do not fail. Members of this Ministerial committee are also part of the FIFA LOC to ensure that there’s proper alignment between government and FIFA.

Although we cannot afford to be complacent, we are satisfied that preparations are proceeding according to plan and are at an advanced stage. Government has no doubt that we shall be ready to host the biggest sport event on earth and that all of us should resist the temptation to be distracted by rumours and fabricated stories to the contrary.

This conference happens two years before we stage the FIFA World Cup - an event dubbed as a life time opportunity to showcase our continent to the world. For too long, mother Africa has been associated with poverty, wars, violence, dictatorships and under-development. For too long, the world has been shown pictures of starving children with flies all over their faces and dying of starvation.  

While many of these challenges still exist in our continent, the 2010 FIFA World Cup presents us an opportunity to tell the most ‘untold story of the century’ i.e. that Africa is hard at work to re-invent itself, and that famine, death and wars are not all that is happening in this continent.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup, is our chance to send new pictures to the world about us. Pictures of development, of social and economic infrastructure that is emerging in many countries in our region. Pictures of Africans in charge of viable and vibrant economies. Pictures that tell the story that Africans are taking charge of their destiny, rising to the challenge to bring, socio-economic and political stability.  That’s why government believes that we, all of us sitting in this room, must work hard to make sure that the 2010 World Cup event becomes the best world cup ever. We can only achieve this if we believe that we can do it ourselves, and not be distracted by those who keep on telling us that we will fail simply because this is Africa.

When the 2010 opening ceremony begins, billions of people around the world will be glued to their television screens, radios, and the lucky ones will be at the stadia and in fan parks.. What everyone must see on that day is an event that exceeds expectations and becomes an experience that blows them away. When that first ball is kicked, signaling the beginning of the tournament, every African, every citizen of the world must say. ‘Wow, they did it’. Every African in the Diaspora must feel proud of the achievement of all of us sitting in this room.

All of these things must happen because 2010 will usher in a new era and open the doors for tourism, trade and investment for all our countries in the continent. Everyone attending and watching the games must say ‘I want to go and experience the awakening of this giant called the African continent’. When 2010 has come and gone, we must see new tourism, investment and trade frontiers opening not just in South Africa or SADC countries, but throughout the motherland. If we can achieve that goal, our grandchildren (and their children) must look back at you and me and say “our economies grew, our infrastructure is better, we have jobs, all because they had a vision”. We dare not fail our future generations.

Jobs, skills, foreign direct investment, infrastructure, development, and most importantly, proud Africans in the continent and in the Diaspora, are some of the spin-offs that we must get long after final whistle of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final.

It is up to all of us sitting in this room and the other millions of people in our factories, schools, villages, suburbs, offices, streets. In other words, its up to you and I, and as we say in the movement for good, it starts with you.

We must avoid the risk of sitting back thinking that the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup depends only on Irvin Khoza, Danny Jordaan and other members of the LOC. The hosting of the soccer world cup requires a country effort and can’t just be left to a small committee. If the event were to fail, the world won’t say the LOC failed. They will say South Africa or even Africa failed. A message must be sent out to all our fellow country men and women, our youth, workers, to be ready to host the biggest event in the world. At the end of the day, countries, people, and individuals host the world cup, not committees.

This is where you come in as communicators sitting in this room. We, as communicators are not communicating enough about the importance of hosting this event. Our key role as communicators is to mobilize and excite citizens in our countries about 2010. We need tell our various peoples that the spotlight will fall on all of us during the world cup. Therefore, what we do or say, will tell the world who we are. In other words, it’s up to us to decide how we want to be seen, heard and understood by the world during and after the world cup.

The presence of our partners from other countries in the continent presents us with opportunity to openly address issues that will make this event, a truly African World Cup. This will be the first FIFA WORLD Cup on the African soil and we all have a responsibility to ensure that every African mother, daughter and son can feel the African soil move as the soccer giants kick the ball during the tournament. We, as communicators can play a key role in coming up with concrete ideas about how this can become a reality and not just a dream.

We have created this platform to encourage interaction amongst ourselves to share ideas about how we can identify and promote opportunities amongst ourselves in the continent. When we talk about the soccer fans descending on our shores to watch the games in the Confederations Cup in 2009 and the world cup in 2010, many of them will be from the African content itself. Therefore many of the tourism, trade and investment opportunities must and will be amongst Africans themselves.

It is not accident that when a country hosts the world cup the majority of fans who attend the games often come from the continent where that country is located. This is determined by economics and convenience.  South Africa’s geographic location suggests that the majority of fans are most likely to come from the African continent. We would obviously work hard to promote and encourage visitors and fans from other continents because we want 2010 to also celebrate the diversity of humanity, in South Africa, the continent and in the world.

Communicators can also play a key role in educating Africans about each other’s cultures, languages, and histories. This is especially so for the majority of South Africans, who, because of years of isolation during apartheid, never travelled and never met Africans in their own countries. Other than the comrades who went to exile during the struggle against apartheid, most South Africans have never set foot beyond our borders.

The education process must start now through the use of all media, including newspapers, radio, and television. Interaction and contact between entrepreneurs, journalists, students, communicators and other professionals form the continent, must be strengthened and 2010 will present an excellent opportunity to achieve this. Efforts to strengthening links among African countries is already happening in many sectors e.g. editors, universities and governments etc.

But the task of creating lasting bridges among citizens of the continent cannot be left to governments and politicians alone. Excellent government to government relations do not necessarily translate into excellent people to people relations. For those who are not following my argument, I’m simply proposing that one of the outcomes of 2010 must be the strengthening of African solidarity among ordinary people in the continent and I suppose this argument can be extended to Africans in the Diaspora as well. 

When individuals start seeing, feeling, experiencing the concrete benefits of the African solidarity, we can expect them to become 2010 ambassadors in their streets, villages, and informal settlements. This could be one way of making sure that 2010 does not become an event for the privileged few.

It is against this background that the senselessness of the recent xenophobic attacks against our African mothers, brothers , sisters and children must be viewed and understood. Government has, and will continue to condemn any xenophobic attacks, and that anyone who commits or perpetrates such attacks will face the full might of the law. We are ashamed of this violence and I’m pleased to say that the majority of South Africans stood up to be counted among those who will not tolerate any sign or semblance of xenophobia.

We are continuing to work with international agencies such as the UN High Commission for Refugees to address the plight of the displaced foreign nationals, with a view to speeding up their re-integration into communities. Government, together with communities, is working hard to facilitate the integration of the displaced persons into our communities as we believe that the notion of refugee camps is not sustainable.

Refugee camps would create a separation between South African communities and foreign nationals and can be a recipe for sustained tensions. Some of the challenges we are dealing with at this stage is the refusal by some of the displaced foreign nationals to be documented. The government position is that everyone who lives in this country, as is the case in other countries, must be documented so that we know who is in town, so to speak. Any refusal to be documented is tantamount to refusal to observe the laws of the land and no country can allow that situation to continue.

Having said that, many successful economies around the world, including the South African economy, were built on the combination of the strength of locals and foreign nationals creating wealth together. In our case, the skills shortage makes importing foreign skills a necessity and unavoidable. Whilst our priority must be to train our people to possess the essential skills required by our economy, we cannot adopt narrow nationalistic approaches that criminalise foreign nationals. In the context of globalization and where capital, labour and skills know no borders, we can’t afford to make ourselves the laughing stock of the world by attacking foreigners simply because they were born elsewhere.

Our task as South Africans is to start now to discourage any xenophobic tendencies as we get closer to 2010. In this regard, government will be launching a public awareness campaign to educate South Africans about the need to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters from the continent. Each individual and every  community must be part of the campaign against xenophobia so that all citizens of the world the can feel free to come and watch the world cup without any fear of being attacked simply because they are foreigners. Our security forces will be out there to protect everyone who will come to watch the games. I hope that we have seen the last of these senseless attacks which have the potential of straining our relations with our fellow Africans and undermine our goal of making 2010 a truly African world cup.

Every individual must show hospitality to the soccer lovers who will be descending on our shores to watch the world cup. Every soccer fan must be given an experience of a lifetime that would make them want to come back either as a tourist or an investor. This must start with the treatment they will get from our air hostesses, our customs officials, our taxi and bus drivers, our street vendors, our staff in the hotels and our police officers.

As they travel back home, they must remember the stories we would have  told them, our paintings, sculptures, books, actors, poems sportsmen and women, and our African music. These are some of the things that the ordinary men and women in the street can do.

When all is said and done, individuals must also be able to enjoy the beautiful game of football. All the stadia must be filled to capacity irrespective of which team is playing. Individuals must arrive on time for games to avoid all kinds of congestion on the roads. The vuvuzelas must sound the call to duty for all to come together, and to unite behind Bafana Bafana and all the African Teams. I believe very strongly that the world cup will unite us and make us a stronger nation and a stronger continent.

I trust that we will use the experiences we shared in this conference to change and improve the way we communicate.

Finally, there is the small matter of individuals who will be in the teams of the various African countries that will be participating in the tournament. Those boys must make us proud by showing commitment, displaying the most exciting football ever and be proud of representing their countries in the largest sporting event on earth. None of us want to read stories about a salary strike by players just before kick.  

The slogan, ‘Ke Nako, celebrate Africa’s humanity’ must also be translated to mean Africa’s time to win the world cup has come. Nothing can make Africa’s children happier and more proud than seeing one of the African nations lifting the world cup trophy. It is possible. (I nearly said it starts with you, but I know that most of you sitting in this room wouldn’t know how to kick a ball to save your lives).

In conclusion: besides everything else, I trust that you have used this opportunity to establish contacts, friendships and networks that will improve communication amongst ourselves as communicators in the continent. I trust that our preparations for the world cup have been enriched by your deliberations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for being such a wonderful audience, and those of you who paid to listen to some of us, ‘ninga dinwa nangomso’; literally translated, it means ‘lets do this again some time’.

Themba Maseko
Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)
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