In June 2010, the richest World Cup ever kicked off as delirious South African fans gathered in a rare act of national unity to make the world’s biggest sporting event a success. The magnificent new stadiums were packed and the streets were safe. It all went off like clockwork.
But behind this impressive achievement lay billions in wasted public money, crooked companies rigging construction tenders and the fixing of a string of matches involving the national team. Tragically, one of those who blew the whistle would pay with his life.
Then, in May 2015, the arrest of Fifa executives revealed that the tournament’s very foundations were rotten. Evidence emerged that South Africa had encouraged Fifa to pay money to a corrupt member of its executive to secure three votes in favour of its hosting the tournament.
As Sepp Blatter’s Fifa edifice crumbled, a web of transactions, from New York to Trinidad and Tobago and the Cayman Islands, showed how money was diverted to ensure that South Africa’s bid to host the tournament succeeded.
In The Big Fix, Ray Hartley reveals the truth about the rotten foundation on which an epic national achievement was built, exposing the people who used the event to amass wealth and power. This is the real story of the 2010 World Cup.
About Ragged Glory
Twenty years after it abandoned apartheid and charted a new, democratic course, South Africa remains an enigma. It is, on the one hand, an example of a successful transition from minority rule and oppression to constitutional democracy, with all the trappings of a modern state. There is much to celebrate. But, on the other hand, it is also a country under siege, as self-enriching, extractive elites from the old and new orders seek to line their pockets at the expense of the poor. The institutions designed to protect democracy are frequently under threat, their backs to the wall as powerful figures seek to disarm those standing in the way of accumulation. South Africa is a country moving forward, but its pace is slowing and it is taking the occasional backward step as it carries more and more of the baggage of corruption, patronage and crime.
My goal in writing this book has been to explore how the country has found itself in this precarious position two decades after it embarked on a journey full of hope. I have attempted to trace the events, people and – to borrow Malcom Gladwell’s phrase – the ‘tipping points’ that have shaped the first twenty years of the ‘new’ South Africa.
My primary source is my own experience. I was fortunate to witness South Africa’s democracy take shape from the best seats in the house. As an administrative official in the constitutional negotiations of the early 1990s, I watched negotiators such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Roelf Meyer and the late Colin Eglin shape the constitution that would guide the new democratic polity. As a political reporter, first for Business Day, and later for South Africa’s largest circulation newspaper, the Sunday Times, I covered the months leading up to the first democratic election. I travelled extensively, visiting the conflict-ravaged townships around Johannesburg, the quasi-military training camps of Inkatha deep in rural KwaZulu and the battlefield of Mmabatho in the then Bophuthatswana, where a right-wing coup attempt was put down. I reported on Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk as they campaigned for votes in the lead-up to the democratic elections of April 1994.
Once the dust of the transition had settled, I worked as political correspondent for the Sunday Times, covering the first democratic parliament and the Nelson Mandela presidency, travelling with him abroad on historic visits to the United Kingdom, France and New Zealand. I followed Thabo Mbeki as he consolidated power at the centre and shifted the emphasis from reconstruction and reconciliation to transformation and fiscal conservatism. I travelled with him to Japan, China, South Korea and Hong Kong as he played to his strength as a diplomat. And I witnessed the incredible meltdown that saw him pursue bizarre policies on Aids and the accommodation of Robert Mugabe’s increasingly renegade regime in Zimbabwe. As founding editor of The Times, I watched as Jacob Zuma administered the coup de grâce at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference, which led to the party putting Kgalema Motlanthe into office in 2008 to mark time until the 2009 election, when Zuma himself took power. Zuma’s consolidation of the accumulation and cronyism, which had begun under Mbeki, and, to a lesser extent, under Mandela, has characterised the recent period. As editor of the Sunday Times, I saw much of this controversy unfold before my eyes as the country’s top journalists courageously – and often at great personal cost – broke the scandals that have plagued the Zuma years, including the falls from grace of police commissioner Bheki Cele and public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, the cronyism and corruption of cooperative governance minister Sicelo Shiceka, and the abuse of resources by communications minister Dina Pule. These exposés and their outcomes – all of these political bigwigs lost their jobs – is, at once, evidence of everything that is wrong and everything that is right with South Africa’s democratic system. They should never have broken the public’s trust, but, once they did, they were dealt with, albeit reluctantly.