England World Cup stadium worker evicted

20 May 2010 - 12:00am
Press release

Multimedia drive highlights S African homeless

A construction worker who helped renovate a training ground which will be used by England footballers in the World Cup now lives in housing which residents liken to a concentration camp, War on Want warns today in a unique new campaign against the poverty behind the tournament.

Raymond van Varen was a construction worker hired for the $39 million (297 million rand) upgrade at the Athlone stadium in Cape Town, where England will train before their group match with Algeria next month. But Raymond was laid off and now faces grim conditions among thousands forced to live in shacks at the South African city's fenced transit camp Blikkiesdorp.

Raymond said: "Why am I staying here? Because of the World Cup. The government dumped us."

The warning came as War on Want launched a multimedia drive which urges the British public to support its South African partners' fight for government action on housing and public services for poor people.

Visitors to the charity's website can use landmark technology for panoramic sweeps around or inside the camp, and see Raymond and other shack dwellers speak out on video against South Africa staging the tournament at poor people's expense.

The website uses pictures and film from Gareth Kingdon, who won the charity's student photography award this year.

Gareth, a student at the University of Wales in Newport, lived for a fortnight in Blikkiesdorp with Jane Roberts, a local organiser for War on Want partner the Anti-Eviction Campaign, which calls Blikkiesdorp "a city-sponsored concentration camp".

War on Want programmes director Graciela Romero said: "There is a stark contrast between the billions splashed out on the World Cup and South African poverty. While the country spends huge sums on tourism infrastructure, millions of people are starved of the investment needed for public services and decent housing. We hope people in Britain will back their struggle for justice."

Many Blikkiesdorp parents, children and relatives cram into single-room corrugated iron shacks and share water taps and toilets with several other families. Residents with flimsy walls, sand floors and tin roofs are freezing cold in winter and endure terrible heat in summer.

Henry Mpoza and five family members squeeze into one room – including his wife, one of his children and a grandchild, who all suffer from tuberculosis.

Henry said: "New roads, new stadiums in South Africa. But I have to stay here. Millions spent, but they do nothing about our situation. When it's winter, it's cold, it's raining inside. If the wind is blowing, the roof is lifting up and down. In summertime I can't get my breath. It's very hot."

The camp's location, 20 miles from Cape Town, makes earning a living almost impossible for many families. It also lacks basic facilities and community institutions, such as schools and shops.

The South African government has spent $4.6 billion (34 billion rand) to host the biggest sports event on earth, with hundreds of thousands of international fans expected to watch the championship in six new stadiums and four more renovated grounds. Yet one in four South Africans are shack dwellers in settlements often lacking services like electricity and sanitation.

The latest issue of the War on Want newsletter Up Front reports that despite 30 per cent of South Africans struggling on less than two dollars a day, football's governing body FIFA will receive most of the World Cup profits.

In addition, the website features the charity's other South African partners – Abahlali baseMjondolo also opposing evictions, the Anti-Privatisation Forum and Sikhula Sonke, which represents exploited women supplying fruit and wine to UK stores.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The panoramas can be accessed at www.waronwant.org/southafrica2010
  • High-resolution versions of the photographs can be obtained from the War on Want media office.
  • Broadcast-quality copies of the film are also available.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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