The country may be gripped by World Cup fervour, but for some residents of Meyerton near Vereeniging, their town remains a dorpie devoid of any excitement for the global showpiece.
Now, residents who blame the local municipality for the lack of promotion of the World Cup have threatened to tear down the statue of Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid. The granite statue adorns the main park next to the municipal buildings.
A team from The Star drove through the Meyerton CBD last week and found that not a single flag of the 32 countries competing in the World Cup, including the home team South Africa, have gone up – with days left before kick-off.
This is despite the streets teeming with hawkers selling World Cup paraphernalia, including flags.
“Meyerton is dead. Everywhere you go, you see the World Cup spirit, but Meyerton is like a ghost town,” said Sarah Letsatsi, from the nearby Evaton township.
She said that while residents were trying to demonstrate their support for the World Cup, this could be done only by wearing Bafana Bafana T-shirts.
“Not long ago there were 50 days (before kick-off) celebrations… but nothing was done by our leaders. Do we have to go to places like Joburg to feel the vibe? Maybe we are cursed because of the Verwoerd statue. We must just destroy it because it reminds us about our painful past,” she said.
So outraged at the statue are the residents that some mockingly draped it in the scarf bearing the colours of the South African national flag.
Even more frustrated was Patricia Muller, who said she could not find a single Bafana Bafana T-shirt in the town, despite walking from one shop to another.
“There is no World Cup spirit here. People are trying as individuals but the town council must come to the party. What will we tell our grandchildren if we don’t feel like we are part of the World Cup?” Muller asked.
Rose Pilusa from Sicelo township in Meyerton said: “It makes it seem as if we are boycotting the World Cup, but I can’t say it’s political because the ANC is part of the municipality. They should have used the World Cup to bridge the racial tensions in the town, but what can you expect if we are still a laughing stock because of that statue?”
Mariska Struwig said the current mood in the town is different to what it was during Rugby World Cups.
“If it was rugby, the whole town would have been green. Maybe it will be the same when the World Cup starts.
“I don’t really watch soccer but I guess I will watch it on TV. I know one player. I think he plays for Spain and his name is (Cristiano) Ronaldo. I know him because he is attractive,” she said.
Bonnie Grobler said: “I am clueless about it except that it’s coming to Joburg.”
Timothy Nast, the mayor of Midvaal local municipality, under which Meyerton falls, said World Cup branding was the responsibility of Sedibeng District Municipality. He said promotional signage would “go out in a week’s time”.
He added that the municipality has two public viewing sites where fans can gather to watch matches on big screens. On calls to remove the statue, Nast said: “I have never received calls to remove it. But the statue is part of the history of the town. Why must we take it out?”
News source: The Star