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Victims of the Game (NR)

Victims of the Beautiful Game

Nikki Rixon/Twenty Ten

Location: Nelspruit, South Africa

Local feeling about the Mbombela Stadium.

Associated feature: Sleeping in the Shadow of a stadium (Multimedia feature)

The Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit was built on ancestral land previously owned by the Mdluli clan. In 2003, Didiza awarded the land to Phineas Mdluli, a family patriarch and chief of the Mdlulis, and the rest of his clan members. Unfortunately, a few of the younger Mdluli trustees have been accused of mismanaging the trust. They donated the 118 hectares of land to the Mbombela municipality for a mere R1 in return for jobs for the beneficiaries of the trust. It is also said that they own a company with two Mbombela municipality officials who were responsible for securing the site for the World Cup stadium.

While Phineas has celebrated his nation hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he feels heart sore that the ancestral land has been abused, and that so few people from the Mdlulis tribe and surrounding community have benefited.

Forty-one year-old Esther Mbyame has been a teacher at the Mataffin school in Nelspruit for seven years. The stadium developers demolished the original brick-built school in 2007 to build the 46,000-seat, billion-rand Mbombela Stadium.

The school children were relocated to prefabricated buildings a few miles away, which were unventilated, hot, and humid.

“In these prefabricated containers up to six pupils were collapsing each day from the heat. After the mid-morning break we no longer tried to teach because we knew no-one could concentrate.” said Esther.

It took three years of protesting and the school children burning the prefabricated school down before the Mbombela municipality built a brick school for the children just a few months before the World Cup began.

“I’m really happy we finally have a proper classroom to teach our children. It’s been a disruptive three years, but now we can move forward and our children can have a better education.”

Amanda Nkosi, a 35-year-old single mother of two, has been living in Mataffin community her whole life. One day, on her way back from work, she was shot in the leg by the police during a protest against the children having to be taught in an unventilated prefab school. She was in hospital for nearly six months and lost her job as a result. Currently unemployed and disabled, Amanda struggles to support her family. She has made a claim against the police, but nothing has come of it. It is hard for her to be happy about the World Cup when it has only brought her misery.

Esther Khoza, a 57-year-old local, lives in a mud shack without electricity, running water or a toilet in the shadow of Mbombela Stadium in Mataffin, Nelspruit. The local municipality promised the community better infrastructure, new roads, decent housing, electricity, water and sanitation, but so far nothing has been forthcoming.

“There are no services here,” said Esther. “I feel happy that we are hosting this World Cup, but I do not have time to think about football. My worries are greater.”

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