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Expert Alert

U of M expert available to discuss South Africa beyond the World Cup

June 25, 2010

As the world has turned its attention to South Africa to follow the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it is hard to imagine that a little over 20 years ago the country was under the rule of the politically violent and racist governance of Apartheid. How far has South African society evolved since Apartheid was abolished in 1990 and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black president in 1994?

A University of Minnesota history professor who can comment on South Africa’s journey from outcast of the world to host of this year’s premier athletic event is:

Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, associate professor of history University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts

Pohlandt-McCormick, who spent most of her childhood in South Africa and Namibia, says that the aftermath of Apartheid brought an impressive growth of democratic institutions to cement a truly democratic society. On the other hand, she adds, the country has also experienced a marked increase in the gap between rich and poor, contributing to a rise in crime. 

While hosting the World Cup brings many advantages to South Africa and allows the country to provide a positive image of Africa to the world, Pohlandt-McCormick is skeptical about the real economic impact for the country and its citizens. “When it comes to analyzing who takes home the ‘spoils,’ it appears FIFA will reap the biggest profits, to the detriment of the local communities and businesses who have been greatly deprived of a piece of the World Cup profit pie.”

Pohlandt-McCormick is a leading expert on South African history of the 20th century. Her book, "I Saw a Nightmare: Doing Violence to Memory. The Soweto Uprising, June 16, 1976," examines competing historical memories and representations of the Soweto Uprising by the Apartheid regime, the exiled African National Congress and the children who participated in the event. A forthcoming book, “What Have We Done? South Africa Since 1989,” explores how social conflict and racial oppression in South Africa cast shadows on the present.

To interview Pohlandt-McCormick, contact Jeff Falk at (612) 626-1720 or; or Kelly O’Brien at (612) 624-4109 or

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