South Africa’s great challenges

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South Africa’s great challenges


On June 12, as Koreans cheered their national football team to a victory against Greece in the 2010 World Cup, South Africans gathered around TV sets to watch their national rugby team beat France 42 to 17.

It might seem strange that the nation hosting the World Cup would be focused on a rugby test match instead of a football game. But in South Africa, rugby is a game that unites people of all backgrounds - poor and rich, black and white. The film “Invictus” (2009) tells the moving story of how South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup despite all odds. In the aftermath of apartheid, victory united the racially and economically divided country.

Despite being one of Africa’s richest countries, South Africa still faces large wealth and education gaps among its population. The challenges that African nations face have been well documented, but I’d like to examine a few examples of what the continent still must overcome.

The U.S. nonprofit agency Global Action for Children has been working in Africa for several years, dealing mainly with child malnutrition and working to reduce anemia and night blindness among children and pregnant women by providing them with vitamins and food.

Despite their good intentions, GAC officials have run into trouble working with local African governments to distribute aid. They have had difficulty selecting individuals or groups to donate to because of rampant government corruption, and the GAC describes what they witness in Africa as “disgustingly persistent greed.”

In one case, the chairman of GAC visited Tanzania to distribute vitamins and food. While government officials who met him at the airport seemed genuinely kind at first glance, he later learned that the officials were profiting off of his trip. The officials charged the chairman for lavish meals they ate during his stay, and they stole aid goods from the shipyard that were intended for the poor. The goods were later sold on the black market at exorbitant prices.

In South Africa, the ruling party has also long been accused of corruption. The African National Congress once reportedly made 150 million rand ($20 million). But no one in the government has questioned where the money came from because doing so would have been criticized as anti-government behavior. South African politician Julius Malema, head of the ANC Youth League, has been accused of accepting bribes from businesses and then helping these companies win government projects. Even President Jacob Zuma has been prosecuted on charges of corruption and rape.

As South Korea now unites behind the Taegeuk Warriors, I am reminded of South Africa’s incredible Rugby World Cup win. I hope that the South Africans will once again find the power of unity to overcome the challenges they face.

*The writer is the chief of an investigative reporting team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Jin Se-keun
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