Watch Christopher Werth’s multimedia report from South Africa: “Out of Bounds? Cape Town’s Cleanup for the World Cup.”
Kicked Out for the Cup?
South Africa is accused of clearing Cape Town slums to clean up for the big event
by Christhoper Werth
Victor Gumbi sits pensively beside a smoldering fire in a newly cleared lot, literally in the shadow of the recently renovated Ellis Park Stadium, one of the many venues where South Africa will host the World Cup football tournament, which kicks off this week. South Africa billed the world’s most popular sporting event as a boon to development that would help lift millions out of poverty, but Gumbi, a 35-year-old day laborer, says things are only getting worse. Not long after South Africa was awarded the tournament, an entire city block in the neighborhood where he lives was slated for destruction as part of a larger urban-regeneration scheme around the stadium, as Johannesburg began preparing for the throngs of tourists expected to come pouring in over the next few weeks. Late last year, the run-down building where Gumbi was squatting was torn down, leaving him in a small, jerry-built shack in the middle of a block of half-demolished houses that local residents have nicknamed “Baghdad.” Now many residents who’d been living in the area’s abandoned buildings for well more than a decade feel they’re being forced out because of the World Cup. “They want to hide us. They don’t want the Europeans seeing the people living here, so they demolished these dirty houses,” says Gumbi, who’s convinced he’ll be removed once and for all before the games actually begin.