SA football goes to war

2009-09-05 00:00

SOUTH African football has gone to war. And when the smoke clears after the South African Football Association’s presidential elections on September 26, either Irvin “Iron Duke” Khoza or Danny Jordaan will have prevailed.

This is the highest stakes power struggle ever seen in this country’s football, and one of the biggest there has been in South African sport. Whoever prevails will gain tremendous power from being Safa president during the 2010 World Cup, and will be able to significantly influence the shape of South African football in the years following the hosting of the world’s greatest sporting event.

The clash of titans between the two most powerful men in South African football has been simmering for months and turning increasingly ugly as the elections have loomed. There have been extensive allegations of attempted bribery and abuse of power to influence votes. The Sunday Times last month reported that candidates have been playing the race card and that the voting is now divided along racial lines. Jordaan was reported to have been vigorously canvassing in coloured vote strongholds in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape, while elements in the Khoza camp were accused of saying soccer is a black sport that should be run by black people.

This was never going to be a clean battle, from the moment current president Molefi Oliphant announced he would not stand for re-election last year. It’s filled with all the intrigue of a spy novel and for the backers of the various parties the terrain is as treacherous as a minefield. Its timing, too, nine months before the World Cup kickoff, has raised concerns.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter wrote to Oliphant to ask him to delay the elections until after the World Cup, but the Safa president has not budged and insists the association’s constitution must be adhered to. Blatter told City Press: “I told the Three Musketeers [Oliphant, Khoza and Jordaan] they should not have elections before the World Cup. They must oversee the World Cup process together and then they can have elections afterwards.”

On the one side of the struggle stands Khoza — the 2010 Local Organising Committee chairman, Safa vice-president, Premier Soccer League chairman and Orlando Pirates owner — and his backers. On the other Jordaan, backed by a body called the Football Transformation Forum (FTF).

The FTF’s key figures are the ambitious head of Loftus stadium for 2010 and former Safa executive committee member and Bafana Bafana head of delegation Mandla “Shoes” Mazibuko, Safa vice-president Mwelo Nonkonyana and the chairman of Safa’s National Referees Committee, Kirsten Nematandani. The outspoken chief Nonkonyana has been a thorn in the side of the current administration running Safa — Oliphant, CEO Raymond Hack and Khoza as the vice-president allegedly pulling the strings — for years since his time as head of Safa’s Transkei region.

The FTF says it wants to see a transformation in the manner in which Safa is run, in its efficiency, accountability and transparency, and has put forward LOC chief executive Jordaan as the man to achieve this turnaround. The body claims to have secured the votes of 38 of Safa’s 52 regions already, though will know all to well that in any football election, and particularly one that has been as tainted by claims of corruption as this one, the results in the ballot box could be dramatically different to the assurances it has supposedly received.

The FTF has accused the ruling body of Safa, led by Hack, of abuse of power and allegiance to Khoza’s camp. Nonkonyana this week told City Press the FTF will ask Fifa to monitor the elections in the interests of fair play.

“… we feel that our regions are being victimised and the administration of Safa is on a campaign against us. We are in the process of drafting a memorandum and we will observe what happens next week before we dispatch it to Fifa. We cannot reveal in public what exactly we will say to Fifa because of sensitivities and other things that have happened internally,” Nonkonyana told the newspaper.

A statement released by the FTF reads: “We will therefore submit a comprehensive memorandum, not least of which is an abuse of power and authority (sic), to Fifa because these actions have been taken by the very people who have to preside over possible disciplinary procedures for the transgressors and, in some cases are the transgressors themselves. We will outline in detail the low-intensity warfare that has been undertaken by persons in authority against its own members.”

Jordaan and Khoza are two very big bulls in a small kraal and the concern is that, once the dust settles from their stomping, there could be a divide in the administration that must oversee the running of the World Cup. On the other hand, these Safa elections could present an opportunity of cleaning up an association that has fallen into a very poor state of disrepair under the triumvirate of Hack, Oliphant and Khoza. If the FTF is honest about its intentions — and given the track records of Jordaan and its key players such as Nonkonyana and Nematandi, it seems reasonable to assume it is — then it might present an appealing alternative to what has taken place in the last decade at Safa.

This was never going to be a clean battle, from the moment Molefi Oliphant announced he would not stand for re-


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