Match-fixing cabal is like conniving ghosts – Fikile Mbalula

2014-09-02 13:44

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Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula referred to “a cabal”, “conniving” and “collusion” as he expressed frustration about delays in getting to the bottom of football match-fixing allegations.

Called before the parliamentary portfolio committee today, Mbalula said the match-fixing investigation was out of the hands of South African authorities after the global body Fifa took control and undertook to investigate.

In March this year, President Jacob Zuma announced that he would not establish a commission of inquiry as planned because Fifa was investigating.

Mbalula suspected that some form of “malicious compliance” within the former executive of the South African Football Association had something to do with the sudden U-turn.

“You cannot touch it in the room, you cannot pin it down, it is like a ghost … but you know it is there. You can feel that cabal. There was conniving and collusion in that matter … there could have been other issues, other concerns, at play,” he told committee members.

Explaining his comments to journalists later, Mbalula said Safa had accepted the decision to set up a judicial investigation “with reservations”.

“Fifa would not have acted on their own [to renege on the decision to allow SA to investigate] without Safa, and that is what I meant by collusion,” he said.

Mbalula told the committee that he had personally been given the all-clear for South Africa to conduct its own investigation during a visit to Zurich. There was an agreement between Fifa, Safa and the South African government.

“Then on my return I got a letter from [Fifa’s secretary] Jérôme Valcke saying that they [Fifa] was ready to investigate ... if we proceeded, that could amount to interference by the South African government.”

This is when he got embroiled in a spat, pointing out to Fifa that South Africa was “not a banana republic”.

Commenting about efforts to get answers from Fifa, the sports minister reminded MPs: “Fifa is not a small federation from Gugulethu, it is a big, powerful international body.”

According to Safa, the match-fixing saga has been dragging on since October 2011, when it requested Fifa to investigate suspected rigged matches in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup.

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