Fifa called the shots -- and we said 'yes'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter and his colleagues are guaranteed huge benefits—including the unrestricted movement of foreign currency into and out of South Africa during the World Cup and a 20% discount on their accommodation costs—through agreements the government signed with the football body.

The Mail & Guardian‘s legal battle to obtain information relating to World Cup tenders has resulted in the newspaper obtaining a copy of the 17 guarantees the government has given Fifa.

Previously released in vague terms into the public domain, the guarantees signed by relevant Cabinet ministers in 2004 ensure that:

  • Fifa, its subsidiaries, the Fifa delegation (that is, anyone who Fifa says is part of its entourage) and the host broadcaster, the SABC, will be treated as “tax exempt persons/entities”;

  • Fifa subsidiary Match, which has links to Blatter’s nephew Philippe and is responsible for World Cup ticketing and official accommodation and hospitality packages, will not pay any taxes or levies on sales except VAT;

  • The government will provide police escorts for the Fifa delegation, participating teams and referees. “The precise number and types will be finalised — in accordance with Fifa’s instructions”;

  • The import and export of all foreign currencies to and from South Africa in relation to the World Cup will be allowed without any restrictions, as well as the exchange and re-conversion of these currencies into a hard currency;

  • Hotel prices for the Fifa delegation, representatives of Fifa’s commercial affiliates, the broadcaster and accredited media will be frozen as of January 1 2010 and will be 20% less than the frozen rate;

  • Police officers and other peace officials will be provided to enforce the protection of the marketing rights, broadcast rights, marks and other intellectual property rights of Fifa and its commercial partners;

  • The government will “indemnify Fifa and defend and hold it harmless against all proceedings, claims and related costs (including professional adviser fees) which may be incurred or suffered by or threatened by others”; and

  • The government will guarantee “the availability of a comprehensive medical service” for the World Cup.
Such agreements meant the state “is no longer calling the shots”, said Sophie Nakueira, a University of Cape Town academic researching the impact of global mega-events on governance and human rights.

“The traditional notion of national sovereignty is irrelevant when bodies like Fifa, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank use governments to advance their own objects, which in Fifa’s case is to further its profits,” Nakueira told the M&G.
She also red-flagged municipal bylaws instituted for the World Cup, including the demarcation of exclusive Fifa zones around the stadiums—these “inhibited the freedom of movement”, she said.

And laws that “disallowed camping or living in a public space” were attempts “to criminalise the poor”, Nakueira said.

Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe said the criticism was “unfounded”. South Africa’s laws “had to be adapted for the World Cup” but people’s constitutional rights were guaranteed, he said.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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