Daily Picture Show

Beyond Soccer: South Africa's Situation

National Geographic

As soccer fans gear up for the World Cup "kickoff" this weekend, all eyes are on South Africa, this year's host. In a New Year's Eve speech last December, South African President Jacob Zuma remarked that 2010 would be the most important year for the country since 1994 — the year apartheid ended. "The year 2010," he said, "must be the year in which, for the first time, we all communicate positive messages about our country to the world. ... We have to put the culture of negativity behind us."

But maybe it's not that simple.

  • At Eden Park near Johannesburg, the moon rises over government-built houses that reflect South Africa's drive to become the just society Nelson Mandela envisioned when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993: "It will be measured by the happiness and welfare of the children."
    Hide caption
    At Eden Park near Johannesburg, the moon rises over government-built houses that reflect South Africa's drive to become the just society Nelson Mandela envisioned when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993: "It will be measured by the happiness and welfare of the children."
    James Nachtwey/National Geographic
  • Johannesburg's new 94,000-seat stadium, inspired by the shape of a traditional African pot, sparkles against the city's skyline. With all eyes on the World Cup host, South Africa aims to dazzle: President Zuma calls 2010 the most critical year since 1994, when apartheid ended.
    Hide caption
    Johannesburg's new 94,000-seat stadium, inspired by the shape of a traditional African pot, sparkles against the city's skyline. With all eyes on the World Cup host, South Africa aims to dazzle: President Zuma calls 2010 the most critical year since 1994, when apartheid ended.
    James Nachtwey/National Geographic
  • A caregiver bathes and cradles the head of a patient receiving home care from Pretoria's Thola-Ulwazi hospice, which provides free services to 700 people with AIDS and tuberculosis.
    Hide caption
    A caregiver bathes and cradles the head of a patient receiving home care from Pretoria's Thola-Ulwazi hospice, which provides free services to 700 people with AIDS and tuberculosis.
    James Nachtwey/National Geographic
  • A woman in Soweto gazes past a length of lace draped to dry on razor wire set up to deter criminals. Mandela's words after a landmark 1976 uprising against apartheid by Soweto youths still ring true: "Much has been achieved and much remains to be done."
    Hide caption
    A woman in Soweto gazes past a length of lace draped to dry on razor wire set up to deter criminals. Mandela's words after a landmark 1976 uprising against apartheid by Soweto youths still ring true: "Much has been achieved and much remains to be done."
    James Nachtwey/National Geographic
  • Four generations on, and the rhythm of life continues for Afrikaner Bertie Swanepoel, who raises cattle and sheep on his 3,000-acre ranch in the Free State. Whites still own more than 80 percent of commercial farmland; reform efforts have delivered only a sliver of land to blacks.
    Hide caption
    Four generations on, and the rhythm of life continues for Afrikaner Bertie Swanepoel, who raises cattle and sheep on his 3,000-acre ranch in the Free State. Whites still own more than 80 percent of commercial farmland; reform efforts have delivered only a sliver of land to blacks.
    James Nachtwey/National Geographic
  • Xhosa teens, initiated into manhood in a centuries-old circumcision ritual called ulwaluko, stay in seclusion outside their Eastern Cape village, wrapped in ceremonial blankets and painted with white clay for purification. Hospital surgeries reduce the infection rate, but many boys opt for the old rite.
    Hide caption
    Xhosa teens, initiated into manhood in a centuries-old circumcision ritual called ulwaluko, stay in seclusion outside their Eastern Cape village, wrapped in ceremonial blankets and painted with white clay for purification. Hospital surgeries reduce the infection rate, but many boys opt for the old rite.
    James Nachtwey/National Geographic
  • Newlyweds Felicity Nyikadzino Berold and Ralph Berold, both 33, enjoy a game of Scrabble near Johannesburg's Zoo Lake.
    Hide caption
    Newlyweds Felicity Nyikadzino Berold and Ralph Berold, both 33, enjoy a game of Scrabble near Johannesburg's Zoo Lake.
    James Nachtwey/National Geographic

1 of 7

View slideshow i

A story in this month's National Geographic magazine digs beneath South Africa's shiny soccer-centric surface. Alexandra Fuller's story, with images by renowned photographer James Nachtwey, reveals that although the nation is on the mend, the wounds of racism still break open at the slightest provocation. It's still violent, still divided and still struggling, but — at least in this article — a tragic story ends in forgiveness, suggesting that for many, there's still hope. And that hope, at least for Jacob Zuma, for now, is entwined with soccer.

For more soccer-related photography, check this out.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.