Councillor Grant Pascoe has been rubbing his hands with glee since The Times reported the extent of the financial losses the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2013 Host Cities are suffering, when he single-handedly was responsible for Cape Town losing out on being selected as a Host City. Even Western Cape Premier Helen Zille Tweeted a link to the article, which only quotes DA politicians in the respective Host Cities, despite this being a City of Cape Town and not a provincial issue!
The Times article reflects that it is the smaller municipalities that are struggling in particular, including Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in Port Elizabeth, using R11,6 million of ratepayers’ monies to fund its hosting of the event. The city is still bearing the load of the cost of hosting the 2010 World Cup, having overspent on that event by more than R500 million. Mbombela municipality in Nelspruit is allegedly spending money it does not have on AFCON 2013, not yet having signed a memorandum of understanding with the government to obtain R31,5 million in funding for the event.
Cape Town withdrew from the bid to be a Host City initially, and ‘refused to be bullied’ into the event. When the city changed its mind about its participation, the door was closed on what was deemed to be too many demands made by City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing! This cost Cape Town the bid for Host City!
Reacting to an editorial by the Cape Times, Councillor Pascoe wrote a letter in response, which was posted on the City’s website, justifying Cape Town’s non-participation, sounding very different to his explanation of the Host City snub when it was announced last year. He wrote this week that the City is supportive of Bafana Bafana (that is not being debated!) and the growth of African football, and that ‘we would have, in principle, been more than pleased to host AFCON matches. In fact, we did everything in our power to make the hosting of matches a reality’. This contradicts the Local Organising Committee feedback about Cape Town’s failed bid at the time.
He continued: “However, as a responsible government, this administration needed to weigh the service delivery needs of all our residents with the benefits of hosting AFCON. Our mandate remains to make every cent of our ratepayers’ money count. And our commitment to caring and providing for our citizens, particularly the poor and vulnerable, remains paramount. We must always ensure that money spent by the City, is done so to drive economic growth, development and inclusion. We had entered the negotiations with AFCON in good faith and were committed to the process. But it became clear we could not accept demands which could place an unfair burden on Cape Town’s ratepayers. At the time, costs to the ratepayer for the tournament were estimated to exceed R50 million. Your editorial refers to the “enthusiastic support” Cape Town’s soccer fans displayed at last week’s friendly encounter. This event was hosted by the City as a show of support for Bafana Bafana before their participation in AFCON. It is just one indication that the City of Cape Town and its residents remain highly supportive of Bafana Bafana and AFCON. While Cape Town will not host AFCON matches, we wanted Cape Town sports enthusiasts to experience live international soccer in the run up to the tournament. Ticket sales were in excess of 37 000. The City remains committed to the hosting of high profile national, regional and international football matches. We are currently in negotiations with a range of partners to this effect”.
He also expressed a touch of Schadenfreude to a Cape Times journalist on Friday, saying that Cape Town had ‘dodged a bullet’ financially ‘by being snubbed from the tournament’, and ‘sympathised’ with the Host Cities’ financial woes and poor ticket sales. ‘I think that we have dodged a bullet because the government guarantees came too late. There was no clarity on how much host cities would have to spend. I’m really sorry that the host cities are battling with money for the tournament. It is something that we were concerned about because we had to think about our service delivery obligations’, Pascoe told the journalist.
Ticket sales have been sluggish across all matches, and only the opening match yesterday between Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde resulting in a goalless draw, was sold out. The television coverage showed that not all ticket holders had arrived at the stadium, with lots of empty seating, possibly due to the torrential rain which Johannesburg experienced yesterday. Umbrellas were listed on the banned list of dangerous items! It appears that one way that the municipalities can make their money back is via beverages. Yesterday a Tweet of the beverage prices at the (AFCON 2013 renamed) National Stadium in Soweto showed a 500ml bottle of water costing an exorbitant R45!
The City of Cape Town is conveniently hiding behind the financial problems of the two smaller municipalities, which have not been reported for Durban and Johannesburg, being more comparable to Cape Town. The loss in tourism revenue at a time when Cape Town is almost devoid of tourists over the next two weeks, and the international television coverage for AFCON 2013, would have been valuable for brands Cape Town and the Western Cape and its tourism industry, and soccer fans too. It is hard to believe Councillor’s Pascoe supposed concern for ratepayers’ monies when he knows that he was part of a 10 person sightseeing tour of Turkey last year, of which no Turkish tourism benefit has been seen locally, he allows Cape Town Tourism to squander ratepayers’ monies, and he organised the loss-making Bafana Bafana vs Norway friendly at the Cape Town Stadium two weeks ago!
POSTSCRIPT 20/1: The Times reported on Friday that an estimated 1 billion television viewers will have seen the Opening Ceremony yesterday, reflecting the AFCON 2013 theme of ‘Celebrate Africa – The Beat at Africa’s Feet’. The newspaper also reported the concern about the African invader fly being an unwelcome visitor to South Africa for AFCON 2013, food (fruit especially) brought along by soccer fans from Africa potentially being contaminated with the fly. On Friday Spar took a full page advertisement in The Times to apologise ‘to all our loyal customers for any inconvenience created by the AFCON voucher/ticket redemption process’. However, it is not clear what problems the retailer is referring to.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage