Fifa intervention has kept Safa's factions apart since the election that catapulted Kirsten Nematandani into the most senior position in soccer.
A timely Fifa intervention has kept the South African Football Association’s (Safa) warring factions apart since the dramatic election that unexpectedly catapulted Kirsten Nematandani into the most senior post in the sport last year.
The battle that had seen Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairperson Irvin “the Iron Duke” Khoza and 2010 Local Organising Committee chief executive Danny Jordaan slug it out for the Safa presidency last year ended with both candidates withdrawing at the last minute.
It has been suggested in some quarters that Fifa persuaded the two South African football giants to pull out of the poll and concentrate on organising the World Cup, which kicks off here in June.
Khoza and Jordaan, the most recognisable names in South African football, are credited with bringing the World Cup to the country. Although the Iron Duke is chairperson of the Local Organising Committee and Jordaan its chief executive, both men have their eyes set on what happens after the World Cup: control of the most watched sport in South Africa. Hence, when former Safa president Molefi Oliphant announced that he would not be seeking re-election, they both sought to take over.
Jordaan, whose candidature was backed by a powerful group of administrators known as the Football Transformation Forum, was well prepared for any eventuality. The Football Transformation Forum replacement for Jordaan was Nematandani, who ascended to the throne unopposed. In what was a landslide victory for Jordaan over Khoza in that election, forum chairperson Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, vice-president also retained his position unopposed. The other vice-presidential position also went to a Jordaan loyalist, Mandla “Shooz” Mazibuko, after five candidates withdrew, Khoza’s followers were falling by the wayside.
Known Iron Duke loyalists such as Obakeng Molatedi, Mubarak Mohamed, Nakedi Lekota and David Nhlabathi, were elbowed off the top leadership rungs. However, the magnitude of the battle for control of the sport that may still lie ahead was highlighted last week when Leslie Sedibe replaced Khoza’s last supporter in Safa, Raymond Hack, as chief executive.
It was a devastating blow for the Local Organising Committee chairperson and for his followers’ hopes of launching a bid to wrest control after the World Cup.
Khoza’s camp has not, as expected, publicly embraced the new leadership and a bruising battle in the future cannot be ruled out. A month after the election, the PSL Board of Governors opted for the legal route, briefing their lawyers to investigate whether the polls were held in accordance with the constitution.
Kaizer Motaung, the chairperson of the PSL finance committee said at the time that the body would “get legal opinion as to whether the Safa electoral officers acted in accordance with the constitution during that election”.
As the drama unfolded, Motaung refused to say whether the PSL recognised the new Safa leadership. Four months down the line, the top flight league leaders are yet to endorse Nematandani’s executive and say whether they will go to court.
The snub and Khoza, who by virtue of being PSL chairperson is the third Safa vice-president and has been silent on the outcome of September 26, has riled Safa. In an interview with the M&G this week, Nonkonyana did not hide his impatience with the Iron Duke’s delay in embracing the new South African football leadership. “He [Khoza] must come out in the open and say whether he is part of us or not. We have heard disturbing news of meetings taking place about a possible fight back once the World Cup is over.
“Although he has not attended these meetings, his name keeps being mentioned there. Our message is clear: as the Football Transformation Forum we are ready for anyone that seeks to challenge the new leadership,” Nonkonyana said.
“We have the support of the South African football community, Confederation of African Football and have been endorsed in Zurich by Fifa. Nobody is going to stop us from transforming the game in the country.
“The days of football being dominated by powerful personalities to a point where the image of the game in the country is synonymous with these personalities is over,” he said.
He made no secret about who the most powerful figures in South African football will to be in the next four years. “Kirsten Nematandani is the Safa chairperson and head of our football for the next four years. Whoever chooses to question his eligibility will be charged with bringing the game into disrepute,” said Nonkonyana.
He revealed that 10 provincial chairmen from the 52 regions that vote for the Safa executive would be brought before a disciplinary committee on January 22 for refusing to endorse the new leadership.
The Safa vice-president described the 10 chairmen as “rebels who had acted without the backing of their provinces”.
Chief Nonkonyana also gave an idea of the role Jordaan would play in South African football after the World Cup. “It’s no secret that Jordaan was the Football Transformation Forum presidential candidate for Safa before he pulled out.
“The forum is set to meet sometime this month to decide what role Jordaan would assume after the World Cup ... We may deploy him to be chief executive or any other senior position that we feel he may add value in our goal to transform the game in this country,” he said.
This may be the reason behind Sedibe’s short one-year contract as Safa chief executive. Besides the purges that have taken place and have seen the Khoza loyalists removed from key positions in the game, the Football Transformation Forum is still keen to chip away at the PSL.
“The transformation of the PSL is non-negotiable. We cannot have a situation whereby Safa is not represented in the executive. The PSL chairperson is an automatic vice-president in Safa; they [the PSL] must reciprocate the privilege that Safa has granted them,” he said.
Nonkonyana told the M&G that the Safa constitution was to be amended. “We have one of the richest leagues in the world yet it is made up of few haves and a lot of have-nots. We want all 16 teams to compete fairly and improve the standard of our football.”