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The first African soccer World Cup succeeds, despite an airport debacle and a Paris Hilton pot arrest. Zimbabweans flee over fears of xenophobic violence. Golfer Oosthuizen surprises with British Open win. Desmond Tutu bows out of public life. Caster Semenya is deemed female. And a painting of Mandela as a corpse sparks national outrage.
Top News: South Africa rested on its laurels after a successful soccer World Cup. The country proved skeptics wrong to host what FIFA president Sepp Blatter praised as a “special” and “emotional” event. The soccer championships, which were won by Spain over the Netherlands, had few hitches, with the exception of chaos at Durban’s King Shaka airport ahead of the semi-final game that resulted in several hundred fans missing the game or arriving well into the second half. But overall the tournament was praised for its successful organization and hailed as a rallying point for the country.
Among the celebrities who descended on South Africa for the final few games was socialite Paris Hilton, who was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession at a quarterfinal match in Port Elizabeth. Charges against Hilton were dropped during a midnight hearing at a special World Cup court.
Nelson Mandela made a rare public appearance at Soweto’s Soccer City stadium for the World Cup final, waving to spectators while dressed warmly in a winter coat and hat. Mandela, who turned 92 on July 18, did not appear at the opening ceremony after the death of his great-granddaughter in a car accident hours earlier.
Two of Mandela’s grandchildren were held at gunpoint during an armed robbery attempt at a family home in Johannesburg, less than two weeks after the end of the World Cup. They were returning home from Mandela’s birthday party when gunman approached and ordered them to lie on the ground. The would-be robbers fled after an exchange of gunfire with a Mandela family driver.
Golfer Louis Oosthuizen – pronounced “West-hay-zen” – marked Mandela’s birthday with an overwhelming victory at the British Open. Oosthuizen narrowly missed back-to-back trophies, falling short at the Scandinavian Masters.
As the World Cup ended, attention turned to the problem of xenophobia in South Africa amid months of rumors that there would be violence against poor black foreigners. Nervous Zimbabweans streamed out of the country, memories still fresh of the brutal wave of xenophobic violence in 2008. There were sporadic incidents of violence against foreigners following the World Cup, however the ruling African National Congress party played down the threat. Police and the army were brought in to quell violence at an informal settlement near Johannesburg and in the Western Cape.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu announced that he is withdrawing from public life to spend more time sipping tea with his wife and watching sports. “Instead of growing old gracefully at home with my family, reading and writing and praying and thinking, too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels,” Tutu said.
Jackie Selebi, the former South African chief of police and one-time head of Interpol, was found guilty of corruption after months of testimony including the appearance of star witness Glenn Agliotti, a police informer and convicted drug smuggler who prosecutors said took Selebi shopping at high-end boutiques in exchange for favors. Selebi will be sentenced in August.
Caster Semenya, the world 800 meter champion, was cleared to compete as a woman by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Semenya had been stuck in limbo for nearly a year after undergoing gender tests following her controversial win last August. Semenya made her return to track at a small event in Finland, and will compete at the ISTAF meet in Berlin on August 22.
Money: South Africa’s economy received a bump from the World Cup, with the government estimating that the soccer tournament put $12.6 billion into the local economy and added 1 percent to the annual growth rate. The country spent an estimated $5 billion on hosting the World Cup, including stadium costs.
State power utility Eskom averted a strike during the World Cup, which would have threatened power supplies, by agreeing to wage increases of 9 percent with three labor unions, plus a housing benefit of about $200 a month.
South African Airways said it would institute legal action against former CEO Khaya Ngqula to try and recover $4 million in wasted money. Ngqula was fired last year, and a recent investigation by accounting firm KPMG found that he paid unauthorized bonuses to employees and lavished money on entertainment and trips for friends.
Elsewhere: A painting that shows the corpse of Nelson Mandela undergoing an autopsy drew criticism from the ANC and the Mandela family. The painting by Johannesburg-based artist Yiull Damaso is a takeoff of a Rembrandt masterpiece and shows an autopsy being conducted on Mandela by a deceased, well-known AIDS orphan, with major South African political figures looking on as spectators. Damaso, who has received death threats over the painting, said that he was trying to help South Africa confront the taboo subject of Mandela's future death.