Jean-Jacques Cornish

How could a country that relies on handouts, dagga and the sex trade possibly host a World Cup?


 Of course King Mohamed VI and his Moroccan officials will say that their record-breaking five-time losing quest to host the football World Cup has nothing to do with his father annexing the Western Sahara 42 years ago.

They would, wouldn’t they?

The late King Hassan refused to acknowledge that his illegal occupation of the former Spanish colony put Morocco beyond the pale of international respectability.

He jailed any of his subjects who dared even to suggest this.

Whatever he says about presiding over a more liberal system, his successor , known as M6, has enforced this official myopia with equal vigour and cruelty.

I recall attending an editorial conference of a so-called independent Moroccan newspaper.

“Could you possibly conceive of ever publishing the views of a respected academic arguing for granting the Saharawi people self-determination?” I asked.

The l meeting ended right there as the terrified editor and journalists left the room.

I am waiting to see how the Moroccan media explains the harsh reality that the country’s  defiance of international opinion caused no fewer than 11 African countries – nearly a fifth of the  continent – to vote against the kingdom’s bid when FIFA took the decision in Moscow yesterday about who should host the 2026 football World Cup. 

South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe were open about rejecting the last colonial vestige in Africa and their  support for the occupied Saharawi people.

Others said it was a straightforward business decision: the so-called united bid by the United States, Canada and Mexico guarantee a profit of $11 billion for FIFA. That is money that will trickle down to them.

Morocco indicated  it would make $5 billion, which is more than Brazil earned from its 2014 World Cup and certainly more than South Africa raked for World Cup 2010.

The point not being made by the sporting diplomats is that Morocco has shown time and again that it cannot be taken at its word.

It has lied internationally with promises like allowing the Saharawi people a referendum to determine their own future.

And it has lied to its own people about economic plans that have done nothing to reduce unemployment and spur economic growth.

Meanwhile it spends billions keeping 120 000 soldiers guarding the 2 700 km sand wall, or berm, between the occupied and liberated zones of Western Shara.

Morocco can barely maintain this.

It relies on financial support from France and the United State who hold their noses about Morocco’s lamentable human rights record because they see it as a bastion against militant Islam in North Africa.

Nevertheless Morocco has actually become one of the most dangerous breeding grounds for Islamist terrorists.

So how could the country that relies on aid, tourism – particularly European sex tourism, exploiting the dagga trade, growing oranges and raking in profits from stolen Saharawi phosphates possible afford to stage a World Cup?

The Rabat authorities managed to cobble together a pitch, but Morocco’s neighbours and fellow Africans clearly did not believe it.

If M6 and his men really plan to make yet another bid in 2030, they have their work cut out if  they plan to avoid another humiliation.

Ending their occupation of Western Sahara would be an excellent start.

But that is all it would be: a start.




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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.