February 15th is JOHN FRUM DAY in Tanna, Vanuatu, formerly The New Hebrides, in the South Pacific. The legend is that during World War II, a US Air Force cargo plane crashed, and spilled out lots of useful things that the islanders took home. From that day forth a 'Cargo Cult' spread and every year planes were supposed to drop out of the sky with goodies.
It is thought that the John Thrum name came from the local Melanesian dialect, and when asked about it the locals said 'John frum America'!, and the name stuck. Now they annually build a dirt runway and a cardboard cargo plane and have one hell of a party! They even wear T shirts of the Tanna Army: T-A USA (Tanna Army USA).
Well, I want to use this legend to liken it to what's happening in South Africa with less than 4 months before kick-off of FIFA World Cup 2010.June 11th. Despite claiming that rumours of crime are not that bad, the main concern to me is that people are expecting jumbo jets to come out of the sky, land safely on the runways of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and out steps hundreds of thousands of rich fans with Euros, Dollars, Pounds and Yen, to give away freely to overpriced hoteliers, car hire companies and domestic airlines.
With over 20 World Cup and Olympic Games behind me, I can assure them that that is definitely NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. The fans of the world have heard all these rip-off stories and are quite happy to upgrade their T.V. sets and fill their refigerators and even their baths with ice, and ice cold beers, or go to the pubs for a big screen experience, and STAY AT HOME!
At the moment you need to have a bank account to purchase tickets. Most South Africans don't have one and are used to going to a match at the last minute and paying cash. I can't see them lining up in their thousands for such treats as New Zealand v Slovakia in Rustenburg; Honduras v Chile in Nelspruit; Chile v Switzerland in Port Elizabeth; Paraguay v New Zealand in Polokwane....
Jacob Zuma the S.A.President, has been in the news quite a bit recently. Despite promoting safe sex in a nation with over 5 million HIV carriers, he has just fathered a child-his 20th- with the daughter of one of his best friends. He has been married five times, has 3 wives at the moment, and is engaged to another. Poligamy is allowed under the constitution, and is more popular in Kwa Zulu Natal, where he is from. Talk about FATHER OF THE NATION !! Even Nelson Mandela says that his father was a poligamist.
The mother of his latest child is Sonono Khoza, in her mid '30,s and the daughter of Zuma's close friend Irvin Khosa. He is Chairman of the Orlando Pitrates, Chairman of the PSL Premier Soccer League, and vice-president of SAFA - South African Football Association. His most profile title is chairman of the FIFA World Cup 2010 Organizing Committee. He has made a fortune during his time as a soccer administrator and has been arrested before on tax evasion charges and is the subject of another such investigation. There have also been widespread rumours of the illegal drug trade, and he is a know friend of a couple of convicted drug criminals that were found dead. One in the trunk of a car at Cape Town International Airport, and another on the fire escape outside a Johannesburg hospital.
Reggie is a guy I met after a PSL match in Johannesburg at Bidvest Wits FC, 'The Clever Boys'. I looked for a taxi after the match but couldn't find one. I went into the members club inside the stadium and asked the club manager to call a taxi for me. His assistant did so, but then Reggie, a well known fan in a white suit heard the conversation he said 'no problem!' He said he lived in my direction and would be happy to drop me off and talk soccer on the way. It was suggested I give him 100 Rand, half the official fare to help out, and the taxi was cancelled.
He was quite a talker and claimed he went to all the matches that he could and was well known. I got a little suspicious when he lost his way, until I told him I was next to the huge sign for World of Golf. We arrived at my hotel, I gave him the 100 Rand and he went crazy!!. He now claimed that he lived in the opposite direction, was almost out of petrol, and that he was really an off duty cab driver and wanted double. I went into the hotel and he followed me and tried to get in the elevator and go to my room. I turned round and sat in the lobby. He screamed and claimed that I was taking advantage of a black man, and despite his tirade, it took 20 minutes for the hotel staff to see him out. He said he would be back later with his friends to get me!!
I kept awake all night watching television behind my chained door, and left early in the morning to stay with my friends. I want to point out that most South Africans are very friendly, and I have been shown great kindness, that you have to be careful and be sensible, as you would anywhere, and you can have a great time.