SOME of the world’s top media could find themselves homeless when they arrive in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, writes Kim Hawkey in the Sunday Times.


The City of Johannesburg is fighting off an urgent court bid to stop it from proceeding with a R72-million housing development next to Soccer City, the venue for the opening ceremony and the final.

The city and Fifa’s local organising committee have been hauled before court by the Expo Centre at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, over the “hostel-type” dwellings to accommodate the media for the duration of the World Cup.

The centre objected to the apartments after it saw the “inferior” plans in April this year. Concerned about a drop in property values in the surrounding Nasrec area because of the apartments, the Expo Centre wants the court to order the city to stop building and start over again, adhering to better standards.

Among the centre’s complaints are the size of the two-bedroom apartments — at 45m² they are half the expected size — and that they are mostly made of prefabricated material, with no insulation to protect against Johannesburg’s harsh winter, during which the World Cup will take place.

On Friday, the city gave the court an undertaking to stop building until the case, which goes back to court in September, is resolved.

But in court papers it warned that it would cost taxpayers and, with only 291 days until kickoff, the housing would not be finished in time for the media’s arrival next year.

In the papers, the head of the city’s 2010 unit, Sibongile Mazibuko, said the building process was too far advanced to start over.

The city argued that there was no time to change the plans because “time was of the essence” and any delay would have a “profound effect on the broadcast of the World Cup soccer event to the entire world”.

“Should any relief be granted in favour of the (Expo Centre), the consequences for the World Cup in 2010 would be dire,” the city warned in court papers.

The dispute comes down to each side’s understanding of what the housing, which is being built on land donated by the Expo Centre to the city , would — and should — look like.

While the centre envisioned “high-quality, luxurious” accommodation, the city was building “affordable” housing instead. Expo Centre CEO Craig Newman told the Sunday Times the housing development was intended to fit in with its surrounds.

Click here to read the full report, posted on The Sunday Times's website.