I am no expert when it comes to issues of government policy; in fact foreign policy is a specialised field which I will not even bother to feign insights into. But I do know something about the way organisations operate, how structures with a common objective function in order to make a bold attempt at fulfilling their vision.
It all comes down to a shared value system. In some industries they have published documents called- “code of good ethics.” In companies they have these beautifully multi-coloured chats posted on walls in the building to try and remind everybody of what is important. These are basic canons which inform the way the organisation and people within the organisation are expected to behave.
As a consequence, when the value system is clearly defined, then decision making is easy. For example, if honesty and integrity are key values in your organisation, then paying a bribe to win a tender is not an option. Okay, maybe let’s try another example. If UBUNTU is a one of your values, then you are most probably going to handle a retrenchment situation completely differently to an organisation that does not worry much about the treatment of its employees.
For any country these values are encoded in an image known as the country’s coat of arms. You’ve seen this image before, it is on every government form, every government building and on your ID book. For the purposes of this discussion, I will draw your attention to the following items and the values they represent:
The Shield contains the primary symbol of our nation which has a dual function – one as a vehicle for the display of identity and of spiritual defence. Then there is the spear and knobkierie, this too represents dual symbols of defence and authority. They represent the powerful legs of the secretary bird, and as they are lying down, symbolising peace. Lastly there is the Secretary bird; a powerful bird whose legs serve it well in its hunt for snakes, symbolising protection of the nation against its enemies. In this sense it is a symbol of divine majesty. Its uplifted wings are an emblem of the ascendance of our nation, while simultaneously offering us its protection.
In other words, if there was any crisis in any country, and we had the reasons to believe that such a threat menaced peace and the livelihood of humanity then we should take it upon ourselves to help. This is why we helped India with the IPL, we stepped up in the interest of democracy. This is why we helped with the AFCON two years ago; we stepped up in the interest of peace. This is why we have sent troops all over the continent. We were acting in a way defined by our value system. Because with these symbols on our ID books, and our government buildings, on our money and on our passports – these decisions are a mere demonstration of what it means to be South African.
Therefore, when it comes to the issue of Morocco deciding to give up their hosting rights for the AFCON 2015 due to the outbreak of Ebola; and as the consequent possibility of CAF asking us to step in looms, I have been quite shocked to hear South Africans asking the question – “why always us?” Because it means we do not even understand the symbols we so claim to be patriotic of.
Then you wonder why the issue of singing the National Anthem is such a hotly debated issue. On the one hand – yes it is true, no one else stops to sing the National Anthem at the start of a league Cup Final. But, on the other hand when a nation is so clueless about its own identity and patriotic symbolism; then maybe we should be taking any opportunity to sing the National Anthem even at the occasion of the erection of a stop sign, or at any gathering with more than ten people. Maybe that can help us remember what it means to be South African.
Don’t laugh; it is actually not a bad idea. If the apartheid government thought a meeting with more than ten people was enough to overthrow a draconian government, so much so that they instituted a State of Emergency. Why then would a law such as the one suggested above, not ignite an intrinsic movement of social change?
Having said that I am in no way saying that we need to host the 2015 AFCON, in fact I actually think the tournament needs to be postponed because it would be in nobody’s best interest for the tournament to be held.
The reason why I say that can be explained in three reasons.
First of all, fourteen weeks is simply not enough time for us to pull this off, or for anybody for that matter. Even withAFCON 2012, when we took over the rights to host the event with 12 months to go, major suppliers like Computicket did not make themselves available to pitch for the event because there was just not enough time for them to get ready. Ticket distribution was a major issue, because we had to import special paper from Europe. So what more when all you have is 12 weeks. In fact in reality all we have is 9 weeks, because as you know from 15th of December nothing happens.
The second reason is hosting the tournament in South Africa or anywhere else for that matter puts the whole continent at risk. In the mid-1600s when the plague hit London, authorities shut all theatre productions down. This was due to fears of having many people at risk of contracting the disease after being congregated in one location. So even if the event was hosted by another country, with so many people coming into contact with each other in so many matches and then spreading all over the continent. Wouldn’t that put more people all over the continent at risk? I am no specialist in any medical field, but surely hosting the tournament is a risk in and of itself.
Lastly, even if another country did put their hand up and said they would host the tournament. If you were a player, why would you go? For me, the biggest irony of it all is that the very same people who are saying “don’t bring the tournament to South Africa, we don’t want Ebola!” Are the same people who will be calling the players un-patriotic, when the players refuse the AFCON call-up. Because I can tell you know, if I was a player, I would not go either.
And this is the hypocrisy Ebola demonstrates.
You see our humanity has escaped us; we speak of UBUNTU as a superfluous adjective. We discuss patriotism as a concept, and not as a virtue to be lived. And if you don’t believe me, answer this question – What do you think the general sentiment on this issue would be if our chances to qualify for the tournament were as bad as those of Nigeria’s? Would we still be saying take it somewhere else?
The tempest prognosticator
Themba A Dikgale
Edited by the imperious Zethu Mthethwa.