Soccer Final -Flying High in Franschhoek
In his article of June 15th, John Battersby, former editor of the Sunday Independent newspaper in South Africa, predicted in the Christian Science Monitor http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0615/South-Africa-and-the-2010-World-Cup-the-great-leap-forward that “ … the most enduring benefactor of the World Cup will be the national psyche and the quest for a common national identity to transcend a deeply divided past.” I think he is absolutely right!
I could easily feel the healing balm the “gees” in Cape Town, but wondered how Franschhoek, where everything is both more known and more hidden, fared in healing its own divides. Brett Garner, editor of one of our local newspapers, The Month (http://www.themonth.co.za/) described Franschhoek’s social heritage as a place – where people from different groups just never mixed. Settled originally by the French Huguenots, and up till 20 years ago, largely Afrikaans, Franschhoek is now quite cosmopolitan – having attracted permanent residents from England, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as a variety of young parents with children, moving to the countryside from urban areas like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The gastronomic and wine capital of South Africa, home to 50 wineries and plenty bling, Franschhoek is also home to a growing community of African foreigners – from Zimbabwe, Malawi and the Congo – who work in restaurants, or as security guards. Country homes and wine estates sell for tens of millions of rands here. In certain ways Franschhoek exemplifies a microcosm of South Africa where some of the greatest gaps between the wealthy and the less fortunate are clearly in evidence. And where despite good will by individuals and companies towards the less fortunate, it is quite a divided community. How did the world cup touch the psyches of people in this gorgeous village, hidden in the valleys of the winelands?
On the night of the world cup soccer final, I spoke to a few people at the local pub in Franschhoek, the Elephant and Barrel http://www.elephantandbarrel.co.za/ . I asked people what had moved them most, or what struck them most about the Soccer World Cup. I first spoke to Kennedy Ngubalunga, one of the waiters. “ This was more than the game – it was about the worth of the people. I loved the vuvuzela, that it is our own. It is a unique South African item.” I was then greeted by Samuel – a beautiful blonde 4 year old, wiggling his tiny hips to the music and masterfully blowing a vuvuzela -a skill taught to him by his teachers at a Montessori nursery school in Cape Town.
Morgan a beautiful twenty something young woman, discovered the power of being a South African through the loving eyes of foreign fans and visitors. “Cape Tonians are quite closed people. They stick to themselves and their friends. The world cup opened us up. I went to places I would never usually go to like the fanparks. The overseas visitors were just so receptive to us; they were so excited that I was a South African. I loved the unity I felt.”
A shy Coloured woman who works at a local primary school said “this world cup brought all colours together.” For her, the highlight was “blacks, whites, pink and yellow and green people came together like a rainbow. We all stood together in front of a screen at a shebeen in Mantyotyombeni, an informal settlement near Franschhoek, watching the soccer. (Mantyotyombeni is a Xhosa word for many shacks). Rich people and poor people, whites and blacks and coloureds all watched the game. Owners of wine estates, guest houses, businessmen – they all went to the shebeen. That never happens here”.
A guesthouse owner at my table confirmed the story – “Yes she said, my husband was there. They went up in a combi and had a great time. Watching soccer with others in Mantyotyobeni was new. They found it exciting watching the game together. He and his friends discovered that people living in informal settlements are like anyone else – love drinking together and enjoying the game. I think they will keep it up.”
Reading the news this morning, Dennis Davis, a well known judge and public figure in South Africa, quoted in the Guardian UK http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jul/11/south-africa-world-cup , asks the question on everybody’s mind : “ What comes out of this, is how do we– without an event, without an imposition of a deadline – capture the joy and spirit and community? How do we actually translate that into something beyond a month? Why should it not be possible to do it on a more permanent basis?”
I found an inspiring answer to this question in conversation with the very last person I spoke to after the game, Prakash, an advertising executive with Draftfcb, is originally from the UK, but relocated to Franschhoek where he fell in love with the place and the woman who was to become his wife. With heartfelt enthusiasm he said, “South Africans really need to give themselves credit for what they have done. This is amazing country. The South African heart, the African spirit is incredibly powerful. We all need to recognise that.”
He told me about an inspirational campaign, the brainchild of Draftfcb, (one of the world’s biggest communications agencies, with over 80 year history in South Africa) initiated simply as a social responsibility project. The language on the Keep the Flag flying website is passionate, moving, inspirational.“Keep Flying is a simple idea. An idea that matters. And an idea that belongs to all of us. It believes that it’s all of our responsibility to fly the flag. Every South African Brand; every South African and to recognise what the flat symbolizes to Us and our unity. A Unity that brought the World’s greatest tournament to life in a way only we could. A unity that still reverberates across continents a world away. A unity that says to the world and ourselves. “ Hear us, each one of us, as one. Our time has truly come.” (For more information about this initiative check out http://www.keepflyingtheflag.co.za/About_Keep_Flying.html).
At 1 a.m.I walked out of the Elephant and Barrel, elated and inspired. Through the small lens of one joyous night talking to people in a lively Franschhoek pub, I learned that John Battersby had correctly predicted that the healing of South African psyche may well be the biggest beneficiary of the world cup. Arriving at my car I noticed that my own South African flag, previously placed on my car window had been taken by someone obviously caught up in the spirit of excitement. I didn’t even mind. I hope he/she keeps flying the flag. I for one will be buying another one immediately!
Barbara Nussbaum is a published author, currently living in Franschhoek. She is a published author, often flying the flag for South Africa and Africa. Her latest book, published by Penguin Books, http://penguinbooks.co.za/book/9780143026389/ Personal Growth African Style, co-authored with Palsule and Mkhize, will be in bookstores on August 1. She is, for now, turning her hand to blogging. Check out her site for details of the book and some of her blogs. http://www.barbaranussbaum.com/
 http://www.bizcommunity.com/PressOffice/DraftfcbSouthAfrica; http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/147/49632.