When we arrived, we went around to the back door, which is the culturally correct way to approach someone’s house here in Pimville. There was a large shack back there, and inside was our friend. We greeted her and sat with her while she was drinking a beer.
The three of us sat and talked. At first we talked about language. Most Sowetans I’ve met normally speak several languages. We also talked about culture, and how when someone comes to a new country they must adopt the culture of that place. Eventually, the conversation turned to one of the main topics in South Africa today: 2010.
As most people know, the FIFA World Cup is coming to South Africa in June 2010. A huge influx of people is expected for the event. Out conversation concerned one of the housing ideas for the coming soccer fans. As it turned out, the woman who we met is going to be hosting some soccer fans at her home here in the township.
While I listened to the woman talk, I began to imagine a scenario when a soccer fan comes to South Africa for the very first time and is staying in Pimville. The person will need to be able to get from the township to the stadium in Town (Johannesburg). There could be problems because the taxi system can be quite confusing. I’ve been in South Africa several times but I still don’t understand how to get from Soweto to a specific location in Town. There is also a new bus system called Rea Vaya, but I’ve never used it so I can’t comment on it. With these things in mind, I imagined that this soccer fan would really need to get good information about how to get around while in South Africa.
Also there will be increased security during the World Cup. The South African Police now have what people have described as a “shoot-to-kill” mandate. In the local paper, The Sowetan, Police Commissioner Bheke Cele has said he has told his police that if they encounter, “. . . anybody who has a gun in his hand and is threatening you with a gun then you must use yours.” That article appeared on Thursday, November 12, 2009. The very night before, on the TV news there was a story about a three-year old who had been shot dead by police because they thought they saw a gun and ended up firing. Both SA police and private security will be increased at taxi ranks and in the streets during the World Cup.
Now, I tend to feel relatively safe in Pimville, although I know I could get robbed or even beat up or killed. But there are good people here who know me and who I know. I’ve become part of a family here. I listen to them and heed their advice as well as that of other people who have accepted me into their families and lives.
Back to the aforementioned soccer fan . . . when that person arrives, he or she will be a stranger in a strange land. I can see such a person, out of carelessness, getting involved in a situation they might regret. If this person is staying in a township like the one I am staying in, the very best thing this soccer fan could do to have a good time in South Africa is to make friends with people in the community where he or she is staying. They must bua le boahisane ba hao, which is Sesotho for “talk with their neighbours.” They must also be humble and very respectful to people, especially elders. You need to learn the basics of the culture. Period. And be careful who you trust.
I have experienced unfathomable lover and spiritual growth because of the ubuntu culture of my dear friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in South Africa. I’ve also heard gunshots in a residential area as my friends and I walked one night from one township to another, gunshots that probably put bullets into somebody’s body.
If you come to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, make friends with the good people in the community where you might be staying. This will not only increase your safety but you will really experience much more than a few soccer matches. In fact, you might find that the matches end up being among your least significant memories, thoroughly overshadowed by the interaction with South Africa’s beautiful diverse people and cultures. Don’t come just for the soccer. Come with your heart open to South Africa and . . . well, if you’re like me, you’ll never want to leave!
Author: Nicholas Carl