Today’s article in Scotland’s Sunday Herald, chronicles the plight of the poor and workers in light of the many promises made around jobs and development leading up to the World Cup. While I can’t vouch for the reputation of this newspaper’s reporting, the claims being made of workers getting paid pennies and communities being displaced for construction projects are not hard to believe. Strong-man tactics and politics, particularly by those in the Zuma camp, are hardly new, and with the World Cup only 306 days away, I’m sure anyone standing in their way, will be swept aside.
Now I’m writing on this because not only is it wrong, but with a nation depending on the strong backs of laborers to complete the many remaining infrastructure projects around the World Cup, it is a huge risk for the government and business to ignore the plight of the poor and the workers. They are a huge constituency, though not the wealthiest or the most powerful, but where they may lack in rands, they have a distinct advantage in man (woman and child) – power.
A few weeks ago we saw the debilitating effects of the workers choosing to strike; stadium construction came to a stand-still for a few days. And the effects will be even more disastrous if they choose to do so over the next year. The room for error is small and the preparation schedule is tight; even a few days off track and projects will get derailed!
So while I feel that they government has to do more to deliver on promises to workers and the communities being effected by World Cup preparations, I do see this as an opportunity for businesses (sponsors or not) to get involved, chip-in, and build some good will with the populace, and perhaps make a few friends in the government as well.
It’s not businesses responsibility to pay the wages of workers or rebuild the homes of the displaced, but they could help out in other ways. Could Hyundai/Kia provide free transport for workers? Could MTN provide a number of free call-credits for stadium workers? Could McDonald’s provide free lunches/meals for workers? Could Adidas add some school-house building to those pitches being built around the country? Again, while I don’t advocate for the private sector taking on the responsibility of government, it seems like there are opportunities, if done authentically and in good-will, for business to contribute to guaranteeing the completion of projects and therefore a successful games, but also win some points with potential customers.
Full article can be found here: http://www.sundayherald.com/international/shinternational/display.var.2524562.0.0.php