The uproar may be bewildering for a country that already has a guaranteed month of the world’s attention, but it speaks volumes about the passion that South Africans feel about their music and about the economic benefits of the World Cup.
“When we got the World Cup, people were really planning on how they will get rich, start a bed-and-breakfast, but people didn’t really understand how FIFA operates,” says Khaya Dlanga, a Johannnesburg-based newspaper columnist.
With all of its stadiums completed, two major new airport refurbishments done, a new bus system and new commuter rail system operating, and almost all tickets to the games sold out (the largest chunk of them to South Africans, followed by Americans) South Africa would seem to have little to complain about.
The arrival of hundreds of thousands of sports fans into South Africa would seem to be that rising sea that lifts all boats, even those moored far from all those football stadiums.
But a mixture of national pride and economic fear have caused South African artists to make their voices heard, both on and off the stage.
To channel their outrage, musicians have turned to their local union. Last month, the 500-member Creative Workers Union announced an April 15 march on the capital buildings in Pretoria to protest the exclusion of South African artists from FIFA events. The union called off their march the day beforehand, however, after receiving assurances that more South African musicians would be included.
The union was not going to allow local artists to be “undermined by FIFA’s ruling oligarchy and their capitalist-inclined motives,” said union president Mabutho Sithole at a press conference. The union demanded that 80 percent of the talent at FIFA events be local.