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July 10, 2010

Jozini

By Cynara Vetch

We drove out of Jozini town in Kwa Zulu Natal through a dusty, dusky pink sunset, our vuvuzelas blaring out the windows.  We were ready and excited for the penultimate game of the World Cup.

While we waited for a crowd to grow we put on some music videos and the place exploded. Every where we’ve gone any music has got people dancing and this was no exception, we had people shaking and swaying in the car spotlights round the screen and into the shadows at the back. It was turned into a bit of a competition and the slickest dance moves were rewarded with Africa Wins t-shirts and vuvuzelas.

It is great to be a part of the World Cup fever here in South Africa. Football is an important sport in the country and played a big role in South Africans day to day lives whilst they dealt with the brutality of apartheid. In his book ‘Africa United’ Steve Bloomfield interviewed John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu, a former team member of Bafana Bafana, the national team.

Football during apartheid was a release, Shoes explained. Born and raised in Soweto at the height of the battles against apartheid, Shoes has been playing football since he was a small boy. ‘We could forget about everything else and just play,’ he said, whether they were kicking a plastic ball around the township’s dusty streets or watching the two giants of South African football, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, play at Soccer City.

‘You can play anywhere, anytime. You don’t need specific equipment. You can get something round to kick about. For me, football is a poor man’s sport. It has given a lot of people from underprivileged societies a lease of life. It was something that would make us happy. Something where black people would be in a position to win, to conquer. Unlike other things.’ He’s old enough to remember ‘the fumes of the tear gas’ during the Soweto uprising in 1976, and was playing professional football in the township for Kaizer Chiefs during the last violent days of apartheid.

Nelson Mandela became the first black president in 1994 and South Africa is now basking in the glow of a successful World Cup. However the legacy of the past still impacts people living in the country today. We partnered with AMREF who run a project tackling Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the province of Kwa Zulu Natal in the North East of the country. Sthandwa Mnqayi  coordinates the programme , she told me “We grew up with a lot of violence within society and within the family. This has led to violence within relationships and we have a big problem with rape.”

For Sthandwa this aggression and violence against women is closely interlinked with the spread of HIV and AIDS “It is still a man’s world here” she noted “men have all the power in relationships they do what they want to do, women aren’t able to negotiate to use condoms.” All this means that the province of Kwa Zulu Natal has one of the highest HIV rates in the country, in the last census 39.9% of women who had been to an antenatal clinic were HIV positive.

For tonight at least the women seemed to be firmly in control, they definitely dominated the dancing,  one large lady in particular. She had a booming laugh and firm ideas on how to use the dance floor, “dance like a snake, move like a snake” she advised us and won a t-shirt effortlessly.

With no satellite hitches and a fun animated crowd it felt like a very special screening, particularly when Germany won. The match satisfied our German  supporters and we got our revenge on the Uruguians who had robbed Ghana of victory.

Only the final to go now and our Africa Goal journey is complete.

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