Ria Ledwaba, the first woman elected as vice-president of the South African Football Association (SAFA), has expressed faith in the justice system and dismissed suggestions that rape-accused Danny Jordaan should be suspended by the organisation.
The organisation’s president spent much of the last year embroiled in allegations of rape. Former ANC MP and singer Jennifer Ferguson formally filed charges against Jordaan in March, alleging he raped her in a Port Elizabeth hotel 24 years ago. The Sunday Times reported last month that another woman has since opened a case against him at the Parkview police station in Johannesburg. Jordaan was re-elected as president less than a week later.
“In the 52 regions [comprising Safa], Dr Jordaan was voted in by 49, only two against and one abstained,” Ledwaba told the Mail & Guardian. “That tells you that the members of Safa have got confidence in him. We know about the allegations but we have a justice system in this country that we believe in and any individual can not be above the law of this country. He himself has said: ‘I am here, I will not run away, if there is anything that is against me, let it be tested in the court of law.’ Any person would want that proces to be followed.”
The businessperson was chosen alongside two other vice-presidents at a meeting of the national executive committee in Polokwane on Sunday.
“You cannot forget that the man has done so much for football. We have enjoyed so much of his work in football and it cannot be deleted because there is an allegation. We will continue to be there behind him, to support him all the way. We want the standard of football to be of a high level.”
Safa headed into the NEC meeting having already decreed in October that one of the four vice-presidents has to be a woman. Ledwaba received an overwhelming number of votes in: 28 of an available 29. The 30th vote of the council belonged to Jordaan who was obligated to abstain.
“It’s a victory for all women in South Africa,” she said of her appointment. “It’s been a very long journey. It was 1988 when I first really started with football. I’ve gone through all the steps; I think I’m one of the people in this country who have gone through every step. I’ve gone from the bottom leagues, to the first division right up until the Premier Soccer League. At the same time I have been serving Safa at committee level.”
Despite her ascent to the vice-presidency, Ledwaba insisted she will still put in the hard work to ensure women are better represented in the organisation.
“In the council we only have four or five women representatives,” she said. “I know it is in the constitution but we have made it possible. We want more women to be elected and not because we want favours from men, but because we know there are women in this country that have made sacrifices for football.”
Ledwaba was the owner of former PSL club Ria Stars. The club was dissolved after it was purchased by the league for R8-million in 2002 in an attempt to reduce fixture congestion.
Xolile Nkompela and Gay Mokoena were the other vice-presidents elected. Irvin Khoza, by virtue of being the PSL’s chairperson, will automatically occupy the fourth vice-president position.