Friday, June 25, 2010

Take A Bite Out Of South Africa

In all the hoopla of the World Cup, just about every facet of South Africa tends to get at least a little bit of attention-- the host cities, the varied cultures, customs, scenery, social issues, even the people that were chosen to participate in that grand old tradition we like to call "hiding the poor people so they don't get on camera and ruin our nice World Cup or possibly Olympics".

But then there's Lesotho.

You know where Lesotho is as soon as you look at a map of South Africa; you likely just don't know it. You see that little circle that got cut out of South Africa? That's Lesotho. They're not the home base of any of the 32 teams despite being a fairly convenient location. North Korea was going to base themselves outside of South Africa... but they were going to do it in Zimbabwe, causing a predictable outcry and North Korea's eventual backing off. (As an aside, it's a curious thing about that link-- every time I see an article about problems in Zimbabwe, even when I see it on Facebook, even though the place is just about universally regarded as a basket case, without fail there will be a flood of comments about how the article is biased and Zimbabwe is actually a wonderful place and Mugabe is just this short of being Jesus incarnate and all manner of like-minded horseshit.)

You won't see Lesotho in the Cup on merit anytime soon; as I write this, they're ranked #153 in Nate Silver's Soccer Power Index. The lowest-ranked team in the Cup- again, North Korea- right now sits at #93, 60 spots above. Despite being entirely encased within the host nation, other than a visit last week from Prince William and Prince Harry, they remain otherwise ignored.

And that's really a shame, because even though the temporary center of the world that surrounds them pays them little heed, they are still affected by it. For starters, South Africa has barred thousands of Lesothoans from crossing the border. Secondly, running that temporary center of the world requires a lot of water.

Water that partially comes from Lesotho.

And this is something Lesotho cannot afford to do. A dizzyingly high AIDS/HIV rate has driven the country into bankruptcy trying to fight it off, with so little success that their death rate nearly matches their birth rate.

As a last resort, there is a growing movement within Lesotho to ask South Africa to annex them outright, on the basis that they already have to go to South Africa, or at least are constantly pointed in that direction, for the lion's share of their outside aid.

South Africa's response so far: ignore.

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