Photo Gallery: South Africa's Moment of Glory

Foto: Gallo Images/ Getty Images

The Reality of the Rainbow Nation 16 Years after Apartheid, South Africa Fights for Its Future

Sixteen years after the end of the apartheid regime, South Africa is celebrating its return to the global stage as it hosts the football World Cup. Although the country is still a deeply divided and violent place, the rise of the black middle class provides hope for the future.

It is Sunday, May 2, 40 days before the kickoff of the football World Cup, and a warm fall day in South Africa. Police reporter Mzi Gumede, who worked as a waiter until recently, and Sipho Mchunu, who wears a parka even on hot days, are on the hunt for murderers for the Daily Sun in Johannesburg.

Two days earlier, criminals broke into the house of a bookkeeper in Soweto, beat him to death with a wrench and then left, taking a television set, a bowl of potato salad and a few bottles of beer with them. Pickup trucks maneuver around the courtyard of the police station at the Orlando Pirates' stadium. The police detectives say they're going to hunt down "those bastards" today. And they're going to get them.

They drive up and down Soweto's bumpy streets in old Toyotas and Fords, their arms out of the open car windows. They feel good, carrying their 45-caliber pistols in their belts and wearing little checkered hats. Once they've reached the tops of the hills, they'll have a breathtaking, panoramic view of Soweto in the clear light.

Soweto, the most legendary of South Africa's former townships, is not a slum, but a major city in itself. A city with no downtown and with brand-new shopping malls and outdoor cafés, it resembles a smaller version of Los Angeles. A carpet of densely packed houses and huts stretches to the horizon. On the northeastern edge of Soweto lies the massive structure of the Baragwanath Hospital, where, on bad days, more people with gunshot wounds are admitted than in Kabul or Baghdad in a week.

Fifty Murders a Day

These are the facts, which anyone who hopes to do South Africa justice should know and should just as quickly forget: More than 50 murders a day are committed throughout the country, which comes to more than 18,000 a year, a woman is raped every few minutes, and someone is robbed every few seconds. In Germany, which sees 2,000 murders a year, such numbers are inconceivable. But South Africa doesn't need to compare itself to Germany or Europe. After all, the country has enough to worry about on its own.

It has been fighting hard for a future ever since 1994, when apartheid ended. In historical terms, 16 years is a mere blink of an eye. But when the football World Cup begins on the Cape on June 11, a dream will come true for the country and for sub-Saharan Africa that is not unlike the dream China had in the run-up to its Olympic Games. For South Africa, it's a question of proving itself, both to itself and the world, and demonstrating what it can do and what it is. In the case of South Africa, that isn't easy to say.

Sixteen years after the election of Nelson Mandela as the country's first black president, the country remains a large-scale social experiment, the outcome of which remains uncertain. Old differences live on between whites, blacks and the mixed-race population known as "coloureds," and wealth remains unevenly distributed. There are not enough schools and not enough judges, jobs are in short supply and, in many places, there is not even enough water or electricity.

But South Africa and the overwhelming majority of its citizens have just begun a new life, many starting with nothing after decades of a slave-like existence that effectively cut them off from education, trade, culture, the rest of the world and its ideas. Many skeptics outside Africa, who have spent weeks worrying about whether the sale of World Cup tickets is sufficiently well-organized, whether flowerpots are properly set up around the stadiums or whether the locker rooms live up to the standards of the international footballers arriving for the event, should take a serious look at their criteria.

A Land in Turmoil

South Africa is a country in which almost 6 million of its 49 million inhabitants are infected with the AIDS virus. It is a nation that, even 16 years after the end of its regime of terror, still sometimes wakes up from wild nightmares, a country that will soon lose its legendary founding father, Nelson Mandela, and whose society must soon ask itself whether its illustrious liberation movement, the ANC, is truly the best party to lead the country. South Africa is still a land in turmoil. The lists of criteria of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) are the least of its problems.

At the same time, it is important to point out, now that the attention of the entire world is focused on South Africa, that millions of people there are better off than ever before, that many blacks have become affluent, and that many others have at least escaped bitter poverty and are on the road to achieving halfway decent living conditions. It is also important to realize that violence is no longer enshrined in the law, and to recognize the miraculous fact that the long-oppressed majority did not savagely attack its former oppressors, but instead followed its leaders on the road to a painful and bitter reconciliation. Finally, despite all the setbacks that South Africa experiences from one day to the next, it is important to point out the many minor and major victories that are achieved on a daily basis.

'The Wind Has Shifted'

Police reporter Sipho Mchunu, the photographer with a penchant for parkas, has been in the business for a long time. He says that he has encountered fewer and fewer corrupt police officers in recent years. "The wind has shifted," says Mchunu. Not very long ago, he adds, many police officers would only track down wanted criminals so that they could extract a bribe from them in return for letting them go. But now, says Mchunu, many corrupt officers are in prison. Some say that up to 10,000 criminal cops have been locked up. According to Mchunu, "the police here are now beginning to work the way they should."

On this Sunday in early May, the cops have received a tip that initially turns out to be incorrect. An informant has told the police that the murderers had planned to meet in a house around the corner from the memorial to Hector Pieterson, a 12-year-old boy who was shot dead by white police officers in June 1976.

But there is no one there when the police officers arrive at the scene. They stand around for a moment, not quite knowing what to do next, make a few phone calls and polish the barrels of their Kalashnikovs with spit. In the surrounding front yards, families are barbecuing. People are mowing their lawns or washing their cars, hardly taking notice of the police. They are members of a group that is relatively new to South Africa: the black middle class.

Threatened with Lit Cigarettes

Soon afterwards, after following yet another false lead, the detectives are finally getting somewhere. Now they are looking for the fence who worked with the killers. They drive their vehicles into a sea of bungalows and park in front of a complex of three-story apartment buildings. Then the small group of officers, six or seven men wearing T-shirts and tight jeans, but lacking bulletproof vests or any other protective gear, march in, their weapons drawn. They walk through yards where women are hanging up their laundry. Finally, they collar the fence, a chubby Indian man, who confesses after being roughly interrogated behind closed doors, while his mother sits outside wringing her hands.

She can hear her son screaming in pain inside the house, and she can also hear the sharp crackling of electroshock weapons. The detectives threaten their witness with lit cigarettes until they have the information they need. Now they know where "the bastards" are hiding, so they walk back to their vehicles and drive out into the streets of Soweto again, where donkey carts and tour buses constantly cross paths at chaotic intersections, where nuns in colorful habits mingle with street vendors holding up nuts, newspapers or little South African flags to car windows. Until now, everything has been roughly the way one might imagine South Africa to be: brutal, confusing and incomprehensible.

Dancing Her Way to a New Life

The color of reality is no longer black or white, but gray, however. Manthi Ribani, 22, also lives in Soweto. She is a radiant young woman who has an almost completely shaved head. Her arms and legs are covered with tattoos of naïve smiley faces that, so she says, magically protect her against hardships.

At the World Cup opening ceremony on June 11, when the tournament will begin with a lot of hoopla in Soccer City, a stadium that looks like a perforated terracotta pot, she will dance on the field in full view of the entire world. She is a good dancer, good enough to have made it into the final selection by World Cup sponsor McDonald's, which is spending a lot of money to sponsor much of the supplementary program. She has the posture of a professional ballerina, she can whirl like a dervish and she is impressively flexible. Now she is practicing even harder than normal for the big day. Ribani says that she is very proud that she will be representing her country.

If the statistics from South Africa were the only reality, her story wouldn't even exist. Ribani was born in a rough section of Soweto, as one of three children, surrounded by violence, drinking and unemployment, on a street full of neighbors "who do nothing all day." But her smiley faces, she says, protected her against bad things, as she insists they still do today. A small tattoo of a frowning face on the back of her hand, much smaller than the others, symbolizes the bad things in life. "Evil is only as big as you allow it to be," she says. "It's small in my life, and bad people are small."

'The Good and Right People'

Ribani has already won a hip-hop competition and 3,000 rand (about €300, or $370) in prize money, a fortune for a girl from Soweto. She has appeared in an ad for Edgars Department Store and has danced in a Coca-Cola commercial. She works hard and she likes to work, spending three hours a day commuting back and forth to Johannesburg in crowded minibus taxis. When she isn't dancing or modeling, she designs brochures and flyers for clubs and boutiques. She loves culture, good design and art, and she reads a lot. She currently has plans to publish a magazine about a good and correct way to live, and she is trying "to meet the good and right people, people with the same interests, people you can talk to." In the old South Africa, all of this would have been against the law.

The group of dancers with which she will appear during the opening ceremony, in front of 100,000 people in the stadium and watched by billions on television, will offer an attractive image of South Africa, of black, white and coloured girls dancing together. McDonald's and FIFA will celebrate the "rainbow nation." Ribani says that all the girls in the group of dancers get along very well. When asked what distinguishes the white dancers from the black dancers, she says: "The white girls all show up in their own cars, and the black girls all arrive on foot."

The Entrepreneur from the Slums

There are many stories like Manthi Ribani's in today's South Africa. Alfred "Lux" Baloyi also has a story to tell. He is relatively certain of becoming a media star during the World Cup, because he had a good idea many years ago. Baloyi is 54, a broad-shouldered, bearded man with bloodshot eyes. He is an ambitious man from the slums who still lives in a shack and proudly wears the yellow jersey of Johannesburg's Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa's most popular soccer club.

Back in 1979, Baloyi began painting football motifs on ordinary construction hardhats and hawking them at intersections. He had discovered a market niche in a country where dissatisfied football fans in stadiums have a tendency to throw anything they can get their hands on. It became a thriving business.

Baloyi's hardhats became more colorful over time, and soon he was painting them with garish club colors and flags. He eventually came up with the idea to use box cutters to cut patterns into the plastic hardhats and use heat to bend open the plastic. The result was odd-looking hats whose wearers look as though they have grown antlers or stuck little flags into their hardhats, all in the colors of the big teams.

Handmade Products

Baloyi has moved production from his shack to one floor of a factory in a brand-new industrial zone along the N1 highway in the northern section of Johannesburg. He now has 26 employees, who are mass-producing his hardhats for the World Cup, and he plans to increase his workforce to 40, so that he can flood the market with as many of his "Makarapas" -- as the decorated hardhats are known -- in as many national colors as possible.

In addition to leasing the factory floor, Baloyi has acquired a white manager who supervises the work and handles the marketing. The workers do the painting and cutting at long tables, and the finished helmets are laid out on long benches. Some are decorated in black, red and gold, Germany's national colors, while others are in France's blue, white and red. Others are adorned with the Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes. Many are in South Africa's colors. By the start of the World Cup, Baloyi plans to have 5,000 of the helmets finished, which he hopes to sell for 350 rand (€35) apiece. It may seem a lot for what was originally a cheap piece of plastic, but it's all handmade. Baloyi is proud of his product and says: "We also do custom-made pieces." Coca-Cola is one of his major customers.

Getting Married in Style

There are more stories like those of Manthi Ribani and Alfred Baloyi, including those of people who have come much further in the new South Africa, who have moved up the ladder in the country's rapidly growing economy and can now afford dreams that were completely unattainable for their parents.

Brandy festivals, oyster festivals and wine-tasting events are now being held in major cities, in the ballrooms of luxury hotels, on beautiful terraces in Johannesburg's affluent Sandton neighborhood and in restaurants in the luxury Melrose Arch Hotel. These kinds of social events have become a fixture in all major cities, like Cape Town and Pretoria, and the target group is no longer restricted to whites, but also includes newly affluent blacks: bankers, managers and well-paid white-collar workers, driving Bugattis and BMWs, always dressed slightly too garishly.

So-called "wedding villages" have become all the rage between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and also elsewhere in the country. Clever entrepreneurs have bought parcels land and transformed them into manicured park-like grounds filled with faux Tuscan buildings, crooked replicas of Venetian palazzos and Thai temples. Those who want to celebrate here, undisturbed by the problems of the cities and with large buffets and church ceremonies, not to mention photo shoots and bottles of whiskey on every table, need to bring along a lot of money.

'They'd Slit Your Throat for a Toothpick'

Siphokazi Cola and Khulile Ngombane, an attractive couple who both work as human resource managers in the casino business, are getting married at the "Villa Tuscana Wedding Village" north of Johannesburg, an Italian-style facility with buildings painted in earth tones and church doors that have been made to look old. Ngombane, the groom, arrives in a white BMW X3, while the bride remains behind closed doors, spending hours having her hair done. It is an upscale wedding party. The bride's father is a tall, elegant man from Pretoria. It takes a while for all the guests to arrive, and the ceremony begins almost two hours late. Images of angels holding trumpets in a faux-Renaissance style adorn the walls of the chapel.

Then the priest recites the traditional words and a Gospel service ensues. The wedding guests fill the room with their magnificent singing.

On the sidelines, however, unbeknownst to the bridal pair and their guests, there are ugly conversations with the wedding photographer, a white man who is badmouthing the blacks who happen to be paying him on this day. He criticizes them for their inability to organize things and their childish sense of time, and he says: "Sure, I do black weddings, but only in villages like this. Outside? Outside they'd slit your throat for a toothpick. What do you think would happen when they see a $1,000 camera?"

'When Things Go Wrong in South Africa, They Really Go Wrong'

The stories of South Africa's rich and poor are told, day after day, in the windowless office of the editor-in-chief of the Daily Sun in Johannesburg. There, Deon du Plessis makes an initial selection of stories from the chaos of South Africa's life for the benefit of his 5 million readers.

The World Cup kickoff is still four weeks away, and du Plessis is in a foul mood. The Daily Sun's competing newspapers haven't been delivered yet, and when his department heads gather for a meeting, du Plessis's first words are: "Where are the fucking papers? Should I get them from the kiosk myself?" Then the members of his team take turns in pitching their ideas for the day.

It's the usual lineup of stories in South Africa. Pension payments aren't being made in East London in the Eastern Cape province, because government officials there are on strike. The controversy over President Jacob Zuma's public AIDS test is still raging. ANC youth leader Julius Malema has been summoned before a party committee to explain why he sang songs at an event that allegedly glorified the murders of white farmers. In Cape Town, an armed gang ambushed a bus and robbed its passengers. A pregnant woman was slit open near Bloemfontein. The trial into the murder of a pastor is beginning in Johannesburg. "One of these motherfuckers is appearing before the court," says the section editor.

Du Plessis is the co-founder, co-owner and publisher of the Daily Sun. The descendant of French Huguenots, he is a mountain of a man who is around 2 meters (6'7") tall and weighs 300 pounds (140 kilograms). Tarpaulins could be cut from his enormous sweaters, and the floor shakes when he gets up from his chair. A white man who has become famous in his country, du Plessis has been running his newspaper for black workers for the past seven years, and he has done such a good job that the paper now sells 500,000 copies a day and has a readership of 4.8 million.

The Roots of Violence

His family has long been a fixture in South African history. The first du Plessis arrived at the Cape in 1670, "but we were fucked up in the 18th century," he says, "because one of the forefathers married a freed slave." He means it as a joke. He has no problem with the blacks. His entire team, except for a few department managers, is black. "The average South African today is black," he says. "So what?"

Like a comedian, he outlines the history of his country, imitating the English as they marched into Natal, singing "God Save the Queen" and trying to find explanations for the violence in South Africa. Its roots, he says, lie in the endless story of broken families, a tragedy started by the apartheid racists, who took fathers away from sons and husbands away from their wives to turn them into slaves. Lost generations are the result, says du Plessis. "Now we have a lot of young, stupid men running around, and some of them think they can stick the death of a white person into their hat like a feather."

For du Plessis, Europe's problems are laughable by comparison. Of course, he has read and heard about the financial crisis, but he is mostly interested in the debates in distant Europe over whether it was a mistake to award the World Cup to South Africa. He closes his eyes, rubs his right fist over his chin and makes a disgusted face. "You tell those people that this entire country is looking forward to the World Cup," he says, adding that by now South Africans, white or black, "don't give a fuck" whether the world shares in their delight. Anyone who wants to come should come, he says. "Those who stick to the rules, who respect the zones, nothing will happen to them."

He pauses dramatically, and then adds: "There's only one thing you have to know: When things go wrong in South Africa, they really go wrong."

A Country of Natural Spectacles

A lot of things go wrong in South Africa, not just in Johannesburg, but also in Cape Town, in Port Elizabeth, in Polokwane, in Pretoria, which now calls itself Tshwane, and in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Free State provinces. So many things go wrong that people like du Plessis and his team protect themselves with cynical jokes that often end with the same disarming question: So what?

But next to this sinister side of the country there is another South Africa: the sublime, radiant land of wide-open vistas and of natural spectacles that begin on the outskirts of the cities, in a country three times the size of Germany. It's a country where giraffes stroll in wildlife parks and hippos bathe, where antelopes leap and lions roar, where the Indian Ocean crashes against the shores and the paradisiacal shapes of the Drakensberg Mountains unfold as if they were part of a beautiful dream.

Those who leave Gauteng province, the region around Johannesburg and Pretoria, soon reach the liberating emptiness of the countryside, driving through the bush and savannahs and softly undulating uplands. After a few hours' drive toward the northeast, one reaches Polokwane, formerly known as Pietersburg, where a group of children from the Mother Goose kindergarten in a nearby village is just touring the new World Cup stadium.

The teams that will play matches here -- including France, Mexico, Greece, Argentina and other countries -- are fortunate. The architects have managed to build a magnificent football arena, a steep, attractive amphitheater for the world's biggest spectacle. The children walk around the empty stands and blow into little vuvuzelas, or stadium horns. Photos are taken and little flags are waved, and Mrs. Smith, the teacher, says that everyone in her village is "incredibly excited" about the World Cup, that they have hung up maps and flags of all the participating countries and that this is an historic moment for South Africa. "It's almost as big as the election of Mandela," she says. "Well, almost."

Yearning for a Normal Life

Outside the stadium, Polokwane is a faceless small city, a stopping point on the road from Pretoria to nearby Zimbabwe, a grid of orderly streets lined with manicured gardens and the kinds of houses one might see in upscale American suburbs, except that here there are high fences, guards and video cameras on every wall. Fast food franchises line the main road, and the affluent drive out to the Savannah Shopping Mall on the city's outskirts, where there is ice cream and espresso, as well as a restaurant belonging to the Ocean Basket seafood chain, which serves large, moderately priced platters of deep-fried fish.

Peter Mockford's 1,850-hectare (4,570-acre) farm is 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside the city. He employs 140 workers and has 19,000 pigs in his pens and stalls and a herd of Bonsmara cattle grazing on his pastures. He sells 85 percent of the meat he produces as bacon and ham to the large supermarket chains. It isn't an easy life out here, nor has it ever been. And nowadays he has the added problem of international competition. The Canadians are already forcing their way into the market, and the Brazilians are trying to get in, "but so far we've been able to keep them out by citing hygiene concerns," says Mockford.

Mockford, 57, is the son of a farmer. This World Cup year, he says, is the second coldest and second wettest in the last 54 years, but that's the least of his worries at the moment. Two more raids were reported last week, when intruders stole diesel fuel and pigs from neighboring farms. They tied up one of his neighbors, and when he managed to free himself, they fired at him with their guns. They attacked, robbed and raped another neighbor, a 70-year-old woman. "All the farms around here have had break-ins in the last six weeks," says Mockford. He reports this information matter-of-factly and without comment. Throughout the entire visit, he says nothing about blacks or whites. He doesn't care about the criminals' skin color. He just wants them stopped.

A few days ago, Mockford returned from a trip to New Zealand, where he visited his daughter, who had just given birth to his second grandchild. He says he has "lost" his daughter to New Zealand. He sounds like a settler, a descendant of the Voortrekker. One thing he noticed again during his visit, says Mockford, was how nice it is "to lead a normal life." What exactly is a normal life? "Not needing an alarm system. And not having to be afraid for your wife when you're not at home in the evening."

City of Platinum

The images of the World Cup locations outside Johannesburg and Cape Town are all similar. They are images of provincial South Africa. The Royal Bafokeng Stadium is located some distance away from the city of Rustenburg, in a vast, empty landscape in the territory of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, the ancient homeland of the Bafokeng people. The stadium is a two-hour drive northwest from Johannesburg, along a narrow road lined with transmission lines, and through a vast African landscape tinted the color of red earth.

Rustenburg is a small, poorly planned city on a large plain, and resembles a scruffy Wild West town. The facades of the prefab buildings are covered with advertising, and enormous beverage markets line the streets, selling cheap liquor in 5-liter bottles. There are also many funeral homes. Most of all, however, life in the region revolves around platinum.

The world's largest platinum reserves lie underground to the north of the city. Farther to the north, the world's largest platinum mine stands next to the stadium used by the local football club, the Platinum Stars, where England, Ghana, Mexico, Japan and others will play during the World Cup. His Royal Highness Leruo Molotlegi has hired his own media representative, a man named Martin Bekker, who drives through the facility and can give an account of the Bafokeng kingdom's 1,000-year history in only eight minutes. The story is complicated and difficult to understand, but what's easier to understand is that the historic farm of Paul Kruger, the Boer president who fought the British during the second Boer War, can be visited a few kilometers down the road -- and that the British are setting up their training camp just across the road.

In His Own World

Children are playing football in front of the stadium. Off to the side, one boy seems lost in his own little world, as he plays with a ball in front of the World Cup stadium, its form silhouetted against the setting sun. He keeps the ball in the air for several minutes, with his feet, his shoulders and his head, allows it to drop to the back of his neck, where it sits for a few seconds. Then it rolls down his back and he kicks it back over his head with his heel, catches it with his foot, and the whole cycle begins again.

The boy, Katlego Selepa, is 18. He is wearing a faded Brazil jersey, and he plays for Saulville United. He continues to kick the ball during our conversation, filled with glowing enthusiasm. He worships Lionel Messi, the Argentine player. He says that his father left the family long ago, and that his mother earns 650 rand (€65) a month as a kitchen worker. That's why even the cheapest World Cup tickets, at 140 rand apiece, are incredibly expensive for him.

Bridging the Divide through Football

The same applies to many black football fans, including those in Port Elizabeth on the southern coast, a one-and-a-half hour flight from Johannesburg. The streets of the Indian Ocean port city are empty by 10 p.m., and the brightly painted downtown area near the harbor seems completely abandoned. Magnificent beaches extend along the entire Nelson Mandela Bay, where white retirees from all over the world stroll in the morning.

Here, one can encounter people like the sprightly retiree from the German city of Kleve who immigrated to South Africa 41 years ago and still has a subscription to the German car magazine Auto, Motor und Sport, who loves football but wouldn't think of going to the local World Cup stadium, because watching the matches on television is so much more comfortable.

In South Africa, Port Elizabeth is usually referred to as "PE." The region has become a center for the auto industry, and Volkswagen has a large plant there. Seen from the water, it is a typical New World-style city, with wooden seaside houses along the boardwalk, and establishments like the Blue Waters Café, where white children wearing white outfits sit outside, eating white sandwiches. It is an eerie place.

Festive Mood

Blacks are in the majority in the downtown neighborhoods. The inner city climbs the steep hills rising up from the coast. Every house has a view of the ocean, but the seaside neighborhoods aren't the real Port Elizabeth. That part of the city lies farther back, in the hinterlands, covered with enormous, densely populated apartheid-era townships. This is where the people live who will not see PE's new World Cup stadium from the inside, not because it's too dangerous for them to go there, but because it's too expensive.

This crass divide could deprive the World Cup of a great deal of enthusiasm and flair, as a visit to a match between the Orlando Pirates and a visiting club, Als Puk Tawana, suggests. As a white man in the stands, one is almost alone among thousands of blacks. The league championship matches have already been played, and this match is for the Nedbank Cup, an invitational tournament. Orlando and Tawana are playing to qualify for the quarterfinal. The tickets cost 20 rand, or €2, but even that is too much for many blacks. The stadium is less than half-full.

The 20,000 people who are there make enough noise for 100,000, and after the kickoff, the entire arena begins dancing and tooting horns, particularly when, in the 10th minute, the Pirates shoot their first goal, and then again in the 22nd, the 34th and the 45th minute. The score at halftime is 4-0, and the crowd is already ecstatic over the prospect of victory for the home team. The mood is festive, and the few white fans are readily included. Amid much hand-shaking and thumbs extended jubilantly into the air, football seems to effortlessly connect the two worlds of blacks and whites.

Diminishing the Bad, Bit by Bit

Football also brings together South Africans, but it is quite possible that they don't even realize. On the country's independence day, April 27, the anniversary of the first free elections in 1994, the shopping malls near the sand-colored Nelson Mandela Square, surrounding a bronze statue of a cheerful, many times larger-than-life Mandela, were as busy as usual. Huge models of each of the World Cup balls are on display across from the statue: the 1974 "Telstar," the "Etrusco" from the World Cup in Italy, the "Azteca" and the "Jabulani." Throughout the holiday, many passersby, Indians, Chinese, coloureds, blacks and whites stood in front of the giant balls to be photographed. When placed next to one another, the copies of the photos reveal a "rainbow nation," the members of which ultimately enjoy very similar things, pose for very similar snapshots and could, in fact, feel very comfortable around each other when it comes to watching football, be it in a stadium or on a large screen, without having to be afraid of each other.

But it's very unlikely that this will happen. South Africans live in separate but parallel worlds, and old divides continue to exist, 16 years after the end of apartheid, while new ones are opening up today. Their lives do not revolve around big victories. Rather, they revolve around small steps. For them, the process of increasing the positive and diminishing the negative is a slow and incremental one.

Too Forceful?

On this Sunday in Soweto, 40 days before the kickoff for the World Cup, the negative in South Africa has lost a little ground. At the end of this long day, the surly police officers' operation against two murderers is a success. The detectives apprehend one of the killers at an intersection, and after a few minutes of rough interrogation, he reveals the name of his accomplice, who is soon sitting next to him, his hands and his feet in restraints.

By European standards, one might say the police officers were too forceful. But European standards cannot apply in South Africa, at least not right now.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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