Mbalula vs Safa

2013-03-31 10:01

Sports minister off to Zurich to convince Fifa bosses on inquiry

Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula wants a full-blown judicial commission of inquiry, which will tackle match-fixing allegations involving Bafana Bafana’s pre-World Cup matches and also the affairs of the SA Football Association (Safa).

The proposed commission is expected to look into the allegations contained in a dossier on match-fixing that has been handed to the police’s elite investigating unit, the Hawks.

In the coming week, Mbalula will head to Zurich, where the headquarters of soccer’s governing body, Fifa, is located, to argue for the setting up of a judicial commission to help clean up South Africa’s scandal- prone soccer scene.

His visit was sparked by a letter from Fifa that warned government not to interfere in football matters.

It is said a Safa representative informed Fifa of government’s alleged interference following the release of the match-fixing scandal, which implicated top brass of the local governing body.

Initially, Safa proposed to Mbalula and sporting governing body, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), that it needed a judicial inquiry into the scandal.

But Safa made a U-turn on the matter and now wants a watered-down, independent commission.

A judicial commission can only be appointed by the president of the country and will be chaired by a judge.

It has powers to subpoena any witness it deems necessary to its effectiveness, while an independent inquiry is virtually toothless, with limited powers, by comparison.

Mbalula seems determined to get his way and is scheduled to brief Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke during his visit.

In a recorded interview with SABC radio, Mbalula revealed his intentions, saying: “I am preparing to go to Fifa to tell them these are normal processes we undertake where there is alleged corruption. We will settle on this matter.”

He denied interference, saying it was Safa that approached Sascoc and government after the match-fixing report.

“We did not make a call on match-fixing, and it was Safa who approached Sascoc, and us; and, based on their own analysis, they said they wanted a judicial commission. Now some mischievous people wrote to

Fifa saying we are interfering.

“The decision was taken by Safa itself. We are a constitutional state and we recognise there is a rule of law and if there are people suspected of having taken a bribe or other unlawful activities, we must investigate. This has nothing to do with Fifa,” said Mbalula.

He further said that Safa could not be both player and referee in investigating itself.

“There must be a body, whether judicial or not, that must be there to investigate any form of corruption in sport.

“Match-fixing is about fraud and corruption, and we have to take harsh and decisive action in unravelling the truth. It does not mean interference. We are not a banana republic where people can come in and fix matches. We need to get to the bottom of this and deal with it once and for all.”

The ongoing spat has seen Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana being removed from the committee that briefed the ministry and Sascoc earlier this month.

Nonkonyana confirmed he was no longer allowed to talk about the match-fixing scandal, but said the proposed independent commission was to be chaired by a retired judge, and would include non-football people who would report recommendations to Safa.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam confirmed how badly Mbalula wanted to get to the nub of how Safa is managing its affairs.

“In our meeting with Safa, the minister made it clear he was not interfering, but he said he would not endorse a commission without teeth.

“He wants to get to the root of the problem. He said if they come up with their own terms of reference, the commission won’t be credible and he did not want to be involved,” said Sam.

According to Sam, Mbalula wrote to Sascoc asking about the status quo, as nothing had been forthcoming from Safa’s side.

He said: “The minister has been waiting for them to come up with the way forward and when nothing happened, he wrote to us and said he could invoke certain clauses in the Sport Act and wanted to get it from us. We gave him the permission to go ahead so we can get to the real problem of football. There is no malice intended and we are not targeting anyone. We are saying: ‘Let us see your financials and get to the bottom of the story.’”

Safa president Kirsten Nematandani said he could not comment on the match-fixing scandal as he was implicated.

“All I can tell you is the decision of the national executive committee last week, which is that we want an independent commission.”

Safa chief executive Dennis Mumble, who is also implicated in the scandal, refused to comment.

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