2010 IS ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA'S FUTURE - MOLEKETI
South Africa's Deputy Finance Minister Jabu Moleketi has"not an iota of doubt" that the 2010 FIFA World Cup willbe a success that will help secure his country's long-termfuture.
Moleketi is the head of the South African Government's 2010technical task team, which includes senior officials from the manyGovernment ministries involved in the 2010 project.
He is also the man responsible for ensuring the South AfricanGovernment meets the 17 guarantees it made to FIFA when it bid tohost the event.
It's no easy task, but it's one Moleketi undertakes witha glint in his eye and schoolboy-like relish.
"Any project with a finish line is an exciting one. Adaunting one, but exciting nonetheless," says Moleketi.
"The FIFA World Cup is in June 2010. We can't go beyondthat. It's a clear thing. 2010 might seem very far, but thetime frames bring a sense of reality about what it means. It'scritical. It keeps us on our toes as South Africans," headds.
Buoyed by sustained economic growth and its first budget surplusin history, South Africa made substantial financial commitments inits 2007 budget to ensure the 2010 tournament's success.
R17,4-billion was budgeted for the building and upgrading ofSouth Africa's 10 World Cup stadia and for supportinginfrastructure.
And in total a mammoth R417-billion was budgeted over the nextthree years for significant infrastructure improvements in roads,ports, railways, etc, with present-day South Africa transformedinto a hive of activity and a giant construction site.
Moleketi stresses, though, that the massive infrastructureexpenditure spending wasn't simply done purely for the sake ofthe World Cup, but was a carefully conceived investment in SouthAfrica's future.
"It was a planned intervention. It wasn'treckless," said Moleketi.
"We must look at the contribution of this event to thebroader development of South Africa. The reasons we've donethis are quite obvious. We're building new infrastructure,sophisticated and equal to any in the world. An improved transportsystem is the most important legacy we are going to leave. Busesand trains are quite important in improving city to cityconnectivity and the efficiency of movement of people in our hostcities. It's something we would have done in any case, but thesense of urgency of the World Cup is an important incentive for usto deal with these issues," said Moleketi.
The project will also create much-needed employmentopportunities for hundreds of thousands of South Africans.
"With this infrastructure development there is theimmediate benefit of employment in the construction phase, rangingfrom the steel and cement industries. And once you buildinfrastructure, a range of other supporting industries emerge inretail, commerce, etc. Those are direct benefits that accrue as aresult of the World Cup," said Moleketi.
Still, important as the long-term benefits are for the country,Moleketi knows the world will judge South Africa on the manner inwhich it hosts the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
"The magnitude is huge. It's different, butpreparations are going well. The whole world is watching us. Thereare all sorts of skeptics. But we have to prove to ourselves we cando it. That's the joy. Saying as a nation 'we are able todo it' and I think when push comes to shove we will rise to thechallenge as South Africans and be a different people after theWorld Cup. This is a huge opportunity for South Africa to make acontribution to itself, to the African continent and to the globe.And for the continent, it's the chance to deal with thenegative perceptions of Africa," said Moleketi.
An avid long-distance runner, Moleketi says there are a numberof "water points" on the road to 2010 which will test thecountry's capacity.
"There are very important benchmarks where you testyourself. There's the Preliminary Draw, the 2009 FIFAConfederations Cup, the Final Draw and then there's the laststretch to the World Cup. The Confederations Cup is important andwill say a lot about the type of World Cup we will host," saidMoleketi.
And he has a good idea of just what that needs to be.
"It's about technology, organization, managing themovement of fans and giving them an experience of South Africa.They must feel welcome, feel safe and secure. We must give them aSouth African 'menu' and ensure everything's affordableand within reach. We must be proud of who we are. Humble as we are,we can't be apologetic. We can't lack confidence,"said Moleketi.
Having been through so much in so short a time in its history,Moleketi's confident South Africans will rise to this newchallenge.
"During the apartheid era, there were so many obstacles andchallenges. But every dream has its challenges, hurdles and hugeobstacles. As a nation we never gave up on our dreams and todayevery young South African can be what they want to be, driven bytheir efforts and determination. That's what makes usappreciate the magnitude of what we've done and why we'reso proud of where we are today".