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03 Jun 2015 16:54
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula spoke at the press conference at Safa House in Johannesburg on Wednesday about allegations of bribery during the 2010 Fifa World Cup selection process. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)
WATCH: Mbalula: It is not a bribe
READ: Hawks will probe Fifa bribe allegations
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has defended South Africa’s role in the scandal that
is overwhelming global football.
The minister criticised on Wednesday what he saw as attempts to discredit South
Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup, in the face of previous scandals which have dogged global football organisation Fifa, including suspicions over
previous World Cup bids.
Despite the questions that now hang over the
roles of both the South African Football Association (Safa) and the now
disbanded local organising committee (LOC), no representatives from either
body were present.
In a packed auditorium at Safa House in Johannesburg, Mbalula
reiterated the government’s position that neither it nor the LOC had paid any Fifa
officials bribes to secure hosting rights.
Instead he stood by a 2008 payment of
$10-million, made to the Concacaf in support of a project known as the Diaspora Legacy
The money was intended for the LOC as part of its operational
budget but was instead diverted to the Concacaf headed by former Fifa official
Warner is one of the officials at the heart of the
investigations by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations into corruption
at the football body.
On Wednesday Interpol issued a red notice or an international wanted person alert, for Warner along with former Fifa officials and executives on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and
The diversion of the $10-million came to
light after a letter was leaked to the media. It revealed an instruction to
Fifa, by Molefi Oliphant—then president of Safa—to divert the funds from the
LOC operational budget to Concacaf (the Confederation
of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football).
In the letter, Oliphant, on behalf of Safa, specifically requests that the
“Diaspora Legacy Programme”, be administered by the president of Concacaf –
then Warner – who “will act as fiduciary of the fund”.
But Mbalula stressed this money did not
flow through the coffers of the South African government or the LOC and that it
was not a bribe but a legitimate allocation for “an approved programme”.
The minister, alongside his director
general Alec Moemi, were at pains to illustrate South Africa’s longstanding
commitment to support the legacy of football both in the rest of the African
continent and in the African diaspora.
The agreement—according to Mbalula—was
that the allocation of funds to Concacaf would be provided to the Caribbean
Football Union and used for the Dr João
Havelange Centre of Excellence, a football academy in Trinidad and Tobago.
Mbalula said that South
African officials could not account for how that money was ultimately used
however, and that this was a matter to be dealt with by the ongoing
But Moemi said the funds had
come with no conditions and there had been no requirement that they be
accounted for. This was in line with the other legacy payments made to other
countries on the continent in support of sports development.
Moemi said the fact that
Oliphant specifically identified Warner through his role as president of the Concacaf was not untoward.
At the time Warner was both
president of Concacaf and the
CFU said Moemi, and there was no reason to believe, at the time, that he was
anything other than a “person of good standing”.
“There was no basis on which
we would doubt nominating him as the highest official of those two bodies,” said
When asked by a UK-based
journalist whose idea it was to allocate the $10-million to the Concacaf, both
Mbalula and Moemi refused to name a person – insisting that it came from the
South African government and Safa. Both were “bodies of perpetual continuity”
When the journalist challenged the officials on the basis that “government’s don’t have
ideas, people have ideas” Moemi tartly responded: “Perhaps it is your
government that has no ideas, but ours has ideas”.
Mbalula pointed to previous
controversies that have plagued Fifa, including South Africa’s loss to Germany
of the 2006 World Cup bid , after Fifa official Charles Dempsey abstained from
He went so far as to question why South
Africa has been isolated in investigations by the FBI, implying that the
country was collateral damage in “battles that are ensuing in the geo-political
He pleaded with South African media not to
be the first attack the government over allegations of bribery “when we did not
“We’ve got a country to defend and a nation
to build,” said Mbalula.
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