BBC BLOGS - Andrew Harding on Africa
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World Cup: One month to go

Andrew Harding | 14:53 UK time, Monday, 10 May 2010

I just took an overnight flight out of Johannesburg's Oliver Tambo International Airport. Depressingly, the notorious criminal gangs that specialize in looting luggage are apparently still very active.

The Kenya Airways staff at check-in virtually begged me to get my luggage wrapped in protective plastic sheeting, to deter the thieves. The airline is so frustrated that it provides a free wrapping service. "It's worse at night," said one official. Transiting luggage is considered especially vulnerable. How can South Africa spend a fortune on upgrading the airport - it does look great - and still fail to enforce the most basic security measures one month before the World Cup?

Speaking of security, South Africa's national police boss Bheki Cele has been shooting from the hip again.

General Cele is old school - cowboy hats, gruff talk, a certain disdain for detail. It's a style that does much to generate headlines but rather less to instill confidence.

sa226ap.jpgMark Shinners, on the other hand, exudes a bewitching optimism about the World Cup and its impact on South Africa. He's a liberation hero, who spent two decades on Robben Island along side Nelson Mandela. I visited him at his modest home in Pretoria a few days ago.

Mr Shinners championed football in jail - a story well captured on this film - and is now doing the same on the outside. "It's a quantum leap as far as I'm concerned," he told me of the World Cup. "The warmth it will generate will change perceptions about Africa as a whole. Those who sacrificed in the struggle to free this country... have not made that sacrifice in vain."

Stirring stuff. And true, I'm sure. Although there is also a real danger of expectations being raised too high - a point made by a school teacher I wrote about recently.

Whatever the long-term significance, the excitement is certainly building here. After a lukewarm start, Football Friday is sweeping the nation. In my local shopping mall almost every member of staff was wearing the yellow and green Bafana Bafana team shirt. There's a tantalising report here about who's actually profiting from all the merchandise.

As for visiting fans... a couple of interesting articles here about crime - which as I've long argued, is not the threat that some claim - and about transport which could still be the Achilles heel of this World Cup.

I'm on my way to Ivory Coast now, where they're no doubt busy toasting Didier Drogba's latest triumphs, but I will answer your messages soon.

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