Nelspruit stadium of shame
By Mat Mackay, WWOS
10:30 AEST Wed Jun 23 2010

The World Cup stadium that will host Australia's critical match against Serbia tonight has been at the centre of violent riots and seen schoolchildren forced into sweltering shacks.

Locals in Nelspruit revealed this week that the Mbombela Stadium was constructed on ancestral land on the provision that new schools and housing would be built for the desperately poor.

Yet as the Socceroos prepare to do battle within the architectural masterpiece that reflects South Africa's fauna, nearby residents say they are still waiting on their 'canaan' – the promise of a better life.

Such was their fury last year, they rioted at the site, sparking bloody battles with police that would eventually embarrass authorities into action.

Two schools were built within six months, replacing the tin sheds that the region's schoolchildren were forced to endure for more than two years.

But the construction of homes is yet to commence and the largely black population in the western corner of Nelspruit is still surviving in appalling conditions in a nearby shantytown.

They are crowded into dwellings that consist mainly of mud houses and shacks built from rusting corrugated iron. There is no clean water and HIV is rampant - a fact not lost on one of the world's biggest aid agencies.

Despite new figures that show a 35% drop in HIV rates in South Africa, the Red Cross says the disease remains the greatest challenge facing the country and continues to destroy lives in the black townships that were established during apartheid.

The victims – many children and babies – are in their thousands.

"We're struggling to keep up," said Simphiwe Kubeka, who has been a carer since 2005 and now helps manage the services of the Red Cross in four informal settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

On the day we meet, Simphiwe is busy delivering vital supplies in Alexandra where most homes still don't have running water, electricity or toilets.

A mother of four, Sebonngile Hlatshwago is among the desperate recipients. She has no job, recently discovered she has AIDS and without proper medication, will die.

"We need food, because we remind the people with HIV that they must keep eating. We also need medical supplies and blankets, because without these it is very difficult," said Simphiwe.

Area manager Nathan Bandau said his charity, like others, was only now beginning to feel the full effects of the global financial crisis. Cash donations are at an all-time low, stretching already bare resources to breaking point.

"We have around 2000 volunteers at any time, but very few of them are able to help, regularly," he explained.

"Most (volunteers) seem to be in-between jobs or study, so as soon as they're busy with their 'normal' lives, we miss out."

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