Mbalula calls Safa to order

2012-05-05 19:07

Sports minister says the mess reflects badly in the run-up to Afcon

Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula has summoned the leadership of Safa to a meeting this week to clear the air over the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Local Organising Committee (LOC) chairmanship.

This has become a hot potato since Safa president Kirsten Nematandani was replaced by one of his vice-presidents, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana.

The move led to reports of cracks within the association. Another report stated that Nematandani was seeking a meeting with the minister to discuss a planned “coup” to remove him as Safa president.

Safa insiders said the struggle over the chairmanship was a prelude to next year’s elections.

But a Safa statement said Nonkonyana’s appointment was temporary until the next board meeting.

On Friday Mbalula told City Press he was concerned about these reports and wanted Safa to sort out the mess as it reflected badly on the preparations to host the Afcon.

“As government, we will meet with Safa to get some clarity. We need to check what the issue is, or if it’s money. Safa on its own must clarify because it will then be undermining what we are trying to achieve here,” said Mbalula in Pretoria on Friday after naming the Afcon host cities.

Mbalula was also critical of the issue of who takes the position of chairperson, saying it did not matter who was at the helm.

“I don’t think the issue of who becomes the chairman of the board is an issue at all, really, because there is no money to serve on the board. I don’t know what it would be about – power struggle, popularity or wanting to be a celebrity? It should not be an issue to make people want to fight. Let’s get along and host a successful tournament.”

In the proposed meeting with Safa, some government officials are expected to be named as members on the LOC board.

“We don’t want people to start fighting over Afcon and draw attention to themselves,” said Mbalula.

Nematandani yesterday said he had not heard from the minister. But he said he would be meeting with Mbalula on a regular basis in preparation for next year’s event to begin to bring the excitement to the country.

“The only time I met the minister was during the Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) conference, where I apologised for what has been in the media regarding preparations for next year’s event. Remember the minister had warned us not to say anything until Cabinet had taken the decision,” said Nematandani.

He said the issue of the board chairperson should be discussed by all board members.

“This is an independent board and we don’t want to impose ourselves on other board members – everybody must be part of the decision. Everything we do must be to protect the interest of the board, but I must say I don’t run after positions.”

Meanwhile, three cities billed to host the 2014 African Nations Championship (Chan) seemed surprised by the call to award them the rights to host the event.

Cape Town, Polokwane and Mangaung said they were disappointed not to get Afcon.

Mangaung’s George Mohlakoana said: “Ideally, we would have preferred to host Afcon, but there were a number of obstacles to overcome.

“We thank the minister for selecting Mangaung as a host for Chan 2014. We will wait for Safa to contact us regarding the tournament before making any official statement about our participation.”

Grant Pascoe, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing, said: “We are still waiting for official communication to see what it contains before we respond. We are clearly not happy that we are not the host city for next year’s event, but I suppose if we don’t get this one, we do have the next one.”

Polokwane’s Ndavhe Ramakuela did not want to commit himself about hosting the 2014 event, saying: “We will respond after knowing what it entails.”

He said he was not surprised that Polokwane did not get the nod to host the event as the signs were there from the beginning. Johannesburg will host the opening and closing ceremonies at Soccer City, and therefore will also host the opening match and the final.

Other successful host cities were Mbombela, Rustenburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and eThekwini.

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