Cablegate: Durban Confident About Ability to Host World Cup

Published: Fri 7 Nov 2008 01:06 PM
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1. (SBU) Summary. City Manager Dr. Michael Sutcliffe said that
national, provincial and local governments have worked together
to develop plans to improve infrastructure to host the 2010 FIFA
World Cup. The new stadium and airport being developed to host
the games are on track for completion before the games begin in
June 2010. The greatest challenge facing World Cup preparation
efforts is the ability to improve public transportation and
security capacity. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Consulate General Durban staff met on October 28 with
eThekwini Municipality (Durban) City Manager Michael Sutcliffe
to discuss municipal government preparations to host the 2010
FIFA World Cup. Durban is the biggest municipality in the
KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province and one of the host cities for the
World Cup. In his capacity as City Manager, Sutcliffe
represents Durban at the World Cup Local Organizing Committee
(LOC) meetings and is involved with all of the major
infrastructure projects in the municipality that will support
2010 preparations.
South Africa Expects to
be Prepared for 2010
3. (SBU) Sutcliffe expressed confidence in South Africa's
ability to host the games and remarked that the 2010 World Cup
would be a "different experience" from the precisely-executed
2006 World Cup held in Germany. He explained that significant
national and provincial foresight went into plans to improve
infrastructure when South Africa decided to bid for the 2010
World Cup. He cited public transportation and security capacity
as the area of greatest concern for World Cup preparation
efforts. According to Sutcliffe, South Africa has successfully
hosted large international sporting events in the past (e.g.,
1996 African Nations Cup and the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup) and
has the emergency response and coordination systems in place in
the chosen host cities to ensure the success of the games.
Sutcliffe is pleased with the progress on the development of the
new stadium in Durban and the capacity of the local tourism and
hospitality industries to accommodate the large number of fans
expected to visit Durban.
KZN Transport Infrastructure
Being Upgraded for 2010
4. (SBU) Sutcliffe conceded that initiatives to develop the
transport infrastructure required for the World Cup have been
resource intensive. He expected the municipality to be able to
provide a reasonable level of public transport service during
the games, but admitted that public transport capacity would not
reach the level originally desired by the province or
municipality due to financial constraints. Work at the new
Durban King Shaka International Airport at La Mercy is currently
on a 24-hour cycle to complete construction before the games
begin. Sutcliffe would like to see the province make efforts to
attract a few large international carriers such as Emirates, Air
India, and Air China to provide direct service to the new
airport. He thought it would be more strategic to target a few
large carriers with high passenger volume to increase the
long-term economic viability of the new airport.
5. (SBU) In 2007, the municipality contemplated developing a
tram-based public transport system to improve public transport
capacity for the World Cup and beyond. Municipal officials
consulted with Durban's sister-city Nantes, France, which
operates a tram-based public transport system that they hoped to
use as a model. The municipality decided to shelf the project
due to a lack of financial support from the national government
and projections that Durban would not have the commuter volume
to support a tram-based system after the World Cup. The
municipality decided to rely on a bus-based public transport
system instead to meet short-term World Cup transport needs.
Park and ride platforms will also be established at key train
stations that will link fans to World Cup events.
--------------------------------------------- -------
2010 Providing Impetus to Test Various
Types of Public Transport Systems
--------------------------------------------- -------
6. (SBU) Sutcliffe said the municipality would revisit the
tram-based public transport project if Durban won the 2020
Olympics bid. (Note: Durban is bidding to host the 2020 Summer
Olympics and International Olympic Committee members have
suggested that the organization should award the games to an
African nation). Sutcliffe also noted that a concerted effort
would have to be made to change the mind-set of the population
DURBAN 00000065 002 OF 002
to increase utilization of public transport before such a
project could be considered feasible.
7. (SBU) According to Sutcliffe, urban density in KZN is not
high enough to support the type of mass transit systems that are
in place in Europe. He predicted that it would take another
20-30 years to achieve the urban population densities required
in KZN to support these types of initiatives. He even expressed
skepticism regarding the economic viability of the mass
transport systems (e.g., Gautrain rapid rail link and
Johannesburg bus-rapid transport) being implemented in the
Gauteng province for the World Cup. He believes that the
Gautrain model was unrealistic and did not meet public, mass
transit needs. Sutcliffe also highlighted the challenge
government faced in dealing with the entrenched interests of the
taxi industry, which operates in a "mafia-like" manner to thwart
any initiatives that would develop or promote alternative forms
of mass public transport.
8. (SBU) Despite these challenges, Sutcliffe thought that the
World Cup-led transport capacity building initiatives would
provide an opportunity for the host provinces and municipalities
to experiment with various mass transit systems that would
eventually benefit all South Africans. For instance, Durban
hopes to incorporate lessons learned from the various public
transport projects being implemented in Gauteng for the World
Cup. Sutcliffe emphasized that there has never been such a
large injection of resources into the public transport system in
South Africa before. He hoped that among the various pilot
public transport projects being initiated for the World Cup a
few models would emerge that could be emulated to develop
larger-scale public transport systems.
Capacity Building will be Key to
Improving Security Preparations
9. (SBU) Sutcliffe also outlined the municipality's plans to
increase the patrolling capacity of the Metro Police service and
criticized the national government for putting too much emphasis
on technical solutions to address World Cup-related security
concerns. He noted that new technical solutions would need to
be combined with experienced policing and patrolling during the
games to be effective. The municipality plans on recruiting and
training an additional 600 Metro Police for 2010. The
municipality has started training the new recruits and 200 have
completed the training to-date. Sutcliffe noted that providing
new recruits with adequate training and experience before 2010
would represent a significant challenge for the municipality,
"because experienced policing can not be replaced with
10. (SBU) Comment. Sutcliffe was optimistic about the ability
of South Africa and Durban to host the 2010 World Cup, but was
candid in his assessments of the constraints faced by
initiatives to improve public transportation and security
capacity. He raised valid points about the difficulty of
ramping up transport and security infrastructure in such a short
period of time. Most officials are not as publicly skeptical
about the long-term economic viability of the projects being
initiated for the World Cup. End Comment.
Bio Notes
11. (SBU) Dr. Sutcliffe is an ANC loyalist, brought into the
party by current KZN Premier Sibusiso "Sbu" Ndebele. He is a
prominent figure in KZN province and in the municipality of
eThekwini (Durban). Sutcliffe is driven largely by a pro-poor
liberal political ideology, which has its roots in the
anti-apartheid struggle, and appears to relish opportunities to
shake up the "previously- (and in his view, still-) advantaged"
elites of Durban. He is very close to the eThekwini ANC
regional leadership, especially the powerful Chairman John
Mchunu. These relationships have caused a rift between him and
Durban's mayor, Obed Mlaba, who is seen largely as a ceremonial
mayor. Sutcliffe by contrast seems to enjoy greater political
influence and decision-making powers. Sutcliffe is also very
supportive of ANC President Jacob Zuma. He has a rocky
relationship with opposition parties in the City Council and has
often been at logger-heads with them over a number of
controversial issues, such as the street renaming process.
Sutcliffe's name is invoked with anger in many letters to the
editor in local papers; he has developed a thick skin, and told
us he views the media as part of the "opposition." His
detractors and critics readily admit that he is an extremely
effective city manager, and he is credited for making eThekwini
one of the best-run municipalities in the country.
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