Zuma: Power cuts or not, World Cup will happen

Frequent power failures in South Africa won’t affect the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the man who is expected to be the country’s next president said on Tuesday.

African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma met Fifa president Sepp Blatter after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos last week. The leader of South Africa’s ruling party said he assured Blatter of his nation’s political support for the games and its ability to be a successful host.

“The entire country, particularly the ANC, and all political parties—even if we don’t agree on other things, on this issue we totally agree. We will support that competition fully,” Zuma said.

South Africa has been experiencing dire energy shortages, and national utility Eskom has predicted they will last until at least 2013.

On Friday, leading South African gold, diamond and platinum mines stopped production, fearing that energy shortages made it too dangerous for miners to go underground.
Government officials have declared the situation a national emergency and proposed measures as drastic as rationing and energy price hikes.

The South African Tourism Services Association, one of the country’s biggest boosters, has questioned whether the energy crisis will jeopardise the tournament. Last week, tourists were stranded for hours in a cable car on Table Mountain in Cape Town.

But Zuma said World Cup sites such as stadiums, hotels and restaurants will be given the same energy priority as hospitals.

Blatter said there have been no discussions on changing start times so that more World Cup games would be played in the daytime. Matches are now set to begin at 3pm, 6pm and 8pm in the middle of South Africa’s winter.

In a speech on Monday at the University of Zurich, Zuma blamed the power crisis on the country’s booming economy and the ANC’s successful efforts to raise living standards. He said 3,5-million more homes have come on to South Africa’s electric grid since 1994.

Blatter said he was confident South Africa could find short-term energy solutions so the tournament would not be affected.

“We have already faced so many criticisms over going to South Africa, and I know we will face more,” he said. “But I can tell you we will go to South Africa in 2010 and have the most exceptional World Cup.”—Sapa-AP

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