As World Cup Begins, Social Turmoil in Cape Town

June 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Now: drugs and despair in South Africa.

Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports from Cape Town, the nation’s second largest city and the host for eight World Cup soccer games.

JONATHAN MILLER: In the city where the mountain is transcendent, the rich and the white live on its towering flanks. Cape Town’s poor — and there are millions more of them — occupy the sprawling flats, these the tin roof shanties of the cape of no hop, where gangster gun law rules.

But there’s a diva in this Khayelitsha Township. And she refuses to accept her fate.

JONATHAN MILLER: Bongiwe sings a Baroque aria. “Follow, Follow My Heart,” it’s called, her philosophy of hope.

BONGIWE NAKANI, opra stdent: I feel like I’m in another place where there’s no one, just you and your voice. So, you have to be happy, forget about where you come from, forget about the crime, the drugs and all that. You just have to be somebody else.

JONATHAN MILLER: Bongiwe’s mother gave her four daughters a ticket out of their violent township. They have all been to university. And now the diva has set her sights on Europe.

BONGIWE NAKANI: Living here is not good, very bad, because you would go to the shop and you would get mugged in a very few minutes. And you would lose your wallet and phone and everything. Shootings do happen here in the daylight.


WOMAN: Yes. The country can kill you. It’s the young boys. They just take the cell phones and the wallet and going to sell them.

BONGIWE NAKANI: For the drugs.

WOMAN: For the drugs.


JONATHAN MILLER: Drugs and poverty are a dangerous mix. Four out of five of all the murders and armed robberies are drug-related. Addiction to crystal meth, which locals call tik, is a playing.

Cape Town’s metro cops describe themselves as the hardest gang of the lot. They wield their guns legally. Acting on police intelligence, they’re raiding a suspected drug dealer’s house right next to a World Cup training ground.

Stealth is everything, lookouts everywhere. They nail a man on the stairs and they cuff him. In the family sitting room, they were certainly surprised by their unwelcome guests. Children looked on as the metro police turned their home inside out, no tik and no gunmen. But, in a backroom, they pick up a wanted gang member.

He’s a known gangster? And do you know what the warrants were served for?

MAN: I think it’s for crystal meth, like you guys know it in England. Personally, we know it as tik.


I briefly spoke to the man they had arrested. He told me he had been in and out of prison all his life. Ask people around here privately what they make of the metro police, and they scoff. They pick up the little guys, we were told.

Nowhere is safe from tik and tik crime. And the contagion just gets worse. More than half the population down here are of mixed race. Under apartheid, they were labeled cape coloreds. The country used to be ruled by whites. Now it’s blacks. The mixed-race community remains an underclass in this so-called rainbow nation. Gangs offer the sense of belonging they lack.

Wolf is a human canvas. Hit tattoos tells the story of gang life on the streets and in jail. Extreme sexual violence is depicted, conquests, kills, and wishful exultations.

Say no to tik, yes.

All three of these men have been convicted of multiple murders. Between them, they have spent a lifetime in prison. All three told me of their violent deprived childhoods and anarchic family life.

FABIAN JACOBS, gang leader: Even my own family treat me like a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I don’t mean anything to my own family. That’s why I look up to these guys, to show me the way.

I spent 12 years in prison. I stabbed a (INAUDIBLE) someone 18 times, to get what? To get this. To get this.

JONATHAN MILLER: Six tattooed stars on each shoulder, Fabian Jacobs, captain of the 28s, the most vicious and fierce prison gang of the lot.

We’re in another broken drug-infested neighborhood. A man trains his fighting dog, strengthening its jaws for a weekend kill. This is about as poor as South Africa gets. Two-thirds of adults are unemployed, a quarter HIV-positive. The murder rate is one of the highest in the world. Much of the crime goes unreported.

All those I met, with no exceptions, told me the World Cup would mean nothing to them. A short bus ride from meth central, and you’re at Cape Town’s new stadium — 1.3 billion pounds has been lavished on this city for the tournament. The authorities boast of the social legacy, but expectations of trickle-down have not been met.

PIETER CRONJE, city of Cape Town authority: The World Cup will not be a magic wand that will cure poverty, build houses, schools, home, and touch every suburb.

Right here, in Cape Town, we have 220 informal settlements, people living in shacks, where we, in a concerted fashion, are upgrading those settlements with infrastructure, sewage, water, electricity. This is an enormous task. So, the World Cup was never capable of solving all of that or making that disappear.

JONATHAN MILLER: Ellen Pakkies’ son, Abi, would have loved the World Cup. He had been a sporty teenager, until he started doing tik, which turned him into a psychotic monster.

She showed me the shack she had built for him just to keep Abi out of the house. She would have to put up burglar bars on the windows and doors because her junkie son would steal everything, even her clothes, to buy tik. Abi was extremely violent, attacking his mother with scissors, a bread knife, even an axe.

ELLEN PAKKIES, mother of addict: I just wanted somebody to help me. But there was nobody who could actually help me with him. And, so, I gave up.

JONATHAN MILLER: It had gone on for years, before Ellen Pakkies finally snapped. Early one morning, she took some rope and entered the shack.

ELLEN PAKKIES: It’s like I put extra courage together and just put the rope around his neck. And he then — you know, you wake him up. And he got this board in his hand, and he wanted to hit me with the board. I just pull the rope tight and tight. I just said, “Father, forgive me for what I did.” And I was standing there just looking at him, because he was lying so peaceful.

JONATHAN MILLER: Ellen Pakkies strangled her own son. The judge gave her a three-year suspended sentence and ruled that she was the victim.

JONATHAN MILLER: Stories of hope on the cape are few. The catastrophe wrought by crystal meth is now felt more harshly here than anywhere else in the world.

The cape cops continue to wage their war of attrition. The government says it’s trying. It hopes the World Cup will change lives for the better, but there will be a chilling contrast between this celebration of the beautiful game and the ugly reality of life in the murderous ghettos.