Elders Raise Concern Over Post-Cup Xenophobia

“I think everyone recognises that with having the World Cup in South Africa there are concerns,” former Ireland president Mary Robinson told a press briefing in Johannesburg.

Street traders not being able to ply their livelihoods inside 2010 stadiums, xenophobia and human-trafficking were some of their concerns.

“We are more worried after the World Cup, the possibilities of xenophobia … construction jobs fall away and people, especially from Zimbabwe, will be looking for jobs. “We hope it does not happen and I hope more job opportunities come.”

Robinson said every major event had its downfalls: “Pushing aside of small traders is one, human-trafficking in the other one.”

The Elders were worried about high levels of poverty, poor governance and injustice in Africa, but also optimistic and confident about the continent’s future.

Graca Machel,  former first lady of Mozambique and wife of former president Nelson Mandela,  said Africa was a continent of contrasts. She said even though there were negatives like poverty in Africa, there were also huge opportunities.

“We must take pride that we are able to host a huge spectacle … people must not only concentrate on the negative challenges.”

Former US president Jimmy Carter said from countries around the world, South Africa had been hand-picked to host this major event.

“I am 100% confident that the government, the people of South Africa, and you [journalists] here will represent the continent of Africa with dignity, and that this will be a great World Cup,” he said, gaining a round of applause and cheers from reporters.

He said Machel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu would attend some matches, while former UN secretary general Kofi Annan would attend the final.

Sudanese fragility
On Zimbabwe, Carter said future in the troubled country was “very important”. A repeat of the 1990 election, he said, must be avoided.

Nobel Peace Laureate Tutu said the Elders were deeply concerned about the fragility of the situation in Sudan.

“With less than eight months before a referendum on self-determination in South Sudan, it is crucial that the international community implements a comprehensive strategy towards Sudan … that the will of the people is respected.”

The group recommended the international community unite behind former president Thabo Mbeki, chair of the African Union’s High-Level Implementation Panel.

The group had also met with President Jacob Zuma on Thursday to discuss their concerns.

The Elders are an eminent group of former leaders who no longer hold public office, and speak and act independently. In the past three years they have used their voices to turn global attention to the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. They have called on religious and traditional leaders to join the fight for equality for women and girls.

They have made several visits to Cyprus to support efforts to reunite the divided island. They have also visited Sudan, Israel and the West Bank to highlight the impact of prolonged conflict on people.

Seven elders were at the conference on Monday. Those not present included Annan, honorary elder Nelson Mandela, recognised leader Ela Bhat and former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso. – Sapa