It seems vogue to always criticise Zimbabwe, and many other African countries for not being free, not developing quick enough, and not having their spending priorities right. The latest is the hosting of 5 time FIFA football world champions, Brazil, in a friendly, where they reportedly paid around US$1 million. Not much it seems to entertain such an illustrious team, but this is also a country that has had a wage ceiling on civil servants of US$150 per month and has seen those civil servants strike for better pay.
However, then we must remember, this a country that has gone through immense trauma in the last decade, cut off from the outside world, and had little to cheer about in general. However what was notable, in the crowd, there were many non Africans in attendance in the sell out 60 000 stadium, all cheering for their country. For once, it could be said that the whole country was buzzing, united and felt a sense of self pride again. Is that worth the money paid? There is no way to measure the benefits tangibly, however this is an event that will be spoken about for years to come, that small Zimbabwe hosted Brazil.
Most probably the most well known event that married high level sport and politics in turbulent times, was the Rumble In The Jungle in Zaire, 1974, that saw legendary Muhammad Ali locking horns with George Foreman, all sponsored by Mobutu Sésé Seko for the Heavy Weight Boxing Championship. Whilst under the dictatorship of the army general Sésé Seko, it was important for black Africans to see that it was possible to become a large figure and the blacks were not a sub race of people. It also united the people, and for a moment made them forget about the oppression. it is small things like this that may seem trivial and extravagant over spending, but it makes those people feel relevant in the world, something they are often told they are not. it has also ensured that apart from the current problems with rebels in DR Congo, many will remember Zaire as the place where one of the greatest ever boxing matches was held.