Mbalula sets the Afcon ball rolling

2012-04-14 18:50

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has given assurance that the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) will go ahead at home as planned.

During a media briefing called to allay fears that the problems besetting the organisation of the tournament could derail it, the minister admitted that there were some problems.

He said: “Nothing has stopped and we are saying we are getting organised and going forward. Afcon is coming.”

Mbalula admitted that the government still had to sign the required guarantees, adding that this will only happen once he had tabled a detailed report to Cabinet.

Mvuzo Mbebe, chief executive of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), said they had not yet finalised the budget for the event. He said this would be done in the next few days.

This (the budget) has been one of the major concerns by the prospective host cities that they couldn’t sign the Host City Agreement (HCA) without knowing how much they were committing to.

Mbalula sprung a surprise when, at the end of the briefing, he announced a gag for all concerned parties from commenting on the process and preparations.

He said: “For now, I will appeal to all spheres of government, Safa, LOC, Sascoc, CAF (Confederation of African Football) and all concerned to desist from discussing the processes and implications of this event financial, political or otherwise until Cabinet have considered our submission and pronounced on the outcomes thereof (sic).”

Then came the threat:

“Any person or structure or body that ignores this message will be acting outside government processes and for that, we all know there are dire consequences for the implicated or affected party.”

Mbebe said three cities – Mbombela (Mpumalanga), Nelson Mandela (Eastern Cape) and Rustenburg (North West) – had signed the HCA, with a fourth city registering interest.

City of Cape Town’s Grant Pascue, who had said during the week that they would not sign a blank cheque to Safa for the hosting of the event, yesterday said they still had not signed and were in discussions with the LOC regarding the matter.

In response, Mbalula said: “It’s correct for Cape Town to say they don’t have a blank cheque because they are not running their own spaza shop.”

City of Joburg’s spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said there was still no movement as they were still awaiting a response from the LOC. “The thing that will make us sign is when we get the clarity we sought.”

Mangaung’s (Free State) George Mohlakoana said they were still interested in hosting and that a report had already been submitted to the provincial council to take a decision on the signing of the HCA, in particular due to costs relating to accommodation and transport for teams and referees.

“Initially, Mangaung had certain concerns regarding some of the requirements as outlined in the host city agreement,” said Mohlakoana. “We have reached a point where at a technical level there is meeting of the minds on many issues, the only exception being accommodation and transport for the teams.”

Mbalula insisted the government would sign the guarantees and also support the organising committee to host a successful Afcon tournament.

“The government would like to contribute and we know that contributions will come in millions. Some won’t come in monetary terms but police, the Home Affairs and local government,” he said.

“We are organising a tournament here and we don’t want to embarrass the country. But at the same time, it is important that we must get full cooporation from all parties.

“Where there are shortfalls, we will address them to ensure it (Afcon) becomes a success.”

He added that they were still to engage CAF to see what the continental body was bringing to the table. “We will be talking to CAF about the fact that: ‘you cannot ask us to put money on the table and you don’t come to the party’. It is 50-50 and undertaking for undertaking.

“You wouldn’t come to our country and say: ‘I want all of you to drink a particular beer’ like they did with the (2010 Fifa) World Cup. The point is that they must relax some rights in order to leverage. It is not just ‘you put money in as government and you don’t benefit the people of South Africa’. That is what is going to guide us going forward.” 

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