Nelson Mandela pleased with impact of World Cup on South Africa

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 18, 2010

JOHANNESBURG -- It has been an inauspicious start for the six African nations competing in the 2010 World Cup, who have produced one victory, two draws and five losses among them.

Ghana stands the best chance of advancing to the final 16. And the prospects of host South Africa, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria are grim.

But in the view of former president Nelson Mandela, the man most responsible for bringing the first World Cup to African soil, the tournament has succeeded because of the economic boost it has given South Africa and its promise of further uniting a country and continent that still bear scars of division.

So said Mandla Mandela, the eldest grandson of South Africa's first democratically elected president, in an interview Thursday.

"Looking at the World Cup and the impact it has had on our community and our country, he is fully satisfied with the investments that have been made on infrastructure," Mandla Mandela said of his 91-year-old grandfather. "That alone has enabled us as a country to have a steady economy through this recession."

Regarded as the father of the new South Africa, Mandela canceled plans to attend the World Cup's June 11 opening match following the death of his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela, killed in a car accident on her way home from a celebratory concert the night before.

He made his first public appearance since the day before the tournament began when he attended her funeral service Thursday at the chapel of St. Stithian's College in Johannesburg, looking drawn and frail. Inside the chapel, relatives and friends recalled a charming, beloved, big-hearted girl. But the most moving tribute, according to the Sowetan newspaper, came from Zenani's mother, Zoleka, whose remarks were read on her behalf.

"I should have allowed you to choose your own hairstyles, listened to you when you said I wasn't listening, gave you more hugs and kisses," her tribute read, the paper reported. "I should have helped you more with your homework and left you to leave your room in a mess. If I do all that now, would you come back to me . . . even if it's just for one more day? I need you to come back to me so that I can hold you in my arms. I miss you so much."

Given the family's loss, Mandla Mandela said his grandfather would not attend the World Cup final on July 11 but continue to follow it as he has from the outset, present in spirit.

A member of South Africa's parliament, as well as chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council, Mandla Mandela, 36, wore his black suit of mourning when he arrived at Johannesburg's upscale Melrose Arch district Thursday for a fundraiser to benefit the residents of the village where his grandfather was born.

That region, like the vast majority of South Africa's rural villages, hasn't benefited from the building boom leading up to the World Cup in the same way host cities have. Johannesburg, for example, now boasts a high-speed commuter train; Durban recently opened a new airport.

Mvezo, in South Africa's impoverished Eastern Cape region, where roughly 70 percent live in poverty and few have electricity and clean drinking water, lacks a high school and health center. Those are among the needs Mandla Mandela hopes to address through an arts project dubbed "2010: Africa Salutes You." It's a series of 32 limited-edition prints that bear his grandfather's signature and a Keith Haring-style graphic, set against the national flag of the various World Cup participants, of a soccer ball and a team captain raising a trophy in the shape of the African continent.

"It is a project that is close to the heart of my grandfather and the Mandela family," Mandla Mandela said.

So, too, is the World Cup.

"It is our time, now, as Africans," he added, "to showcase to the world who we are and rid ourselves of the conflict that has put a negative face on Africa for the past decades. Our priority is to put out the message of nation building. To unite our people under a peaceful umbrella."

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