Cosafa leadership under the spotlight

With Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia still counting the costs of the diabolical decision by the Confederation of African Football to throw them out of the race to host the 2010 Nations Cup finals, emotions are running high and questions being asked about the Cosafa leadership. A growing number of radicals – tired of the way the regional leadership has seemingly watched from a distance while Southern Africa continues to get a raw deal from Caf – are now calling for a review of the composition of the men in charge of Cosafa. The regional grouping is headed by Ismael Bhamjee while its secretariat is run by Ashford Mamelodi. They are both from Botswana where the Cosafa headquarters are based. Bhamjee did not even care to attend the ceremony where the nations which were vying for the right to host the 2010 Nations Cup finals presented their bids in Cairo. The Cosafa president said he was not invited to the occasion. “Whether he needed an invitation to go to Cairo ‘ where four of his constituents were presenting their bids to bring the Nations Cup here for only the second time in 50 years ‘ is debatable,” said an official who was part of the Zimbabwe delegation in Cairo. “But the point is that given the sheer number of countries from his region who were involved in this exercise, he should have been there in Cairo just to lend his support. “The question then is that what did Bhamjee do when he realised that he had not received an invitation from Caf, especially in view of the fact that he knew he was supposed to be there? “Where is the correspondence to show that he wrote to Caf to enquire about his absence and is he giving us the impression that he would have been kicked out of the Caf headquarters if he had gone for the presentation ceremony? “There were a lot of people at that ceremony who were clearly not invited but they attended and were not kicked out of the hall. “Bhamjee is a Fifa executive committee member who once battled for the Caf leadership and he knows clearly that he does not need an invitation to go into the Caf headquarters. “I believe this is the worst public relations disaster ever by Cosafa and the entire leadership has a lot of questions that they must answer right now.” Maybe Bhamjee probably feels that his voice is no longer relevant within the Caf structures. After all he was humiliated during the polls for the Fifa executive committee posts during the Caf congress in Cairo in January. Amos Adamu from Nigeria and Jacques Anouma, the president of the Ivorian football federation, won the polls. He received the least number of votes during the polls. Bhamjee was also humiliated when he tried to contest for the Caf presidency against Issa Hayatou in 2004 with virtually the entire Southern African bloc voting against him, which was virtually a vote-of-no-confidence. By next year Bhamjee will be out of the Fifa executive and there is a growing number of people within the region who feel that he should also be out of Cosafa. Admittedly Bhamjee has done reasonably well as Cosafa president and this region is probably doing better than any other region on the continent with an annual tournament that is the envy of virtually everyone in Africa. But in recent years he appears to have shifted his focus more on leading the continent rather than the region and in trying to win friends within the continental bloc, he appears to have forgotten that his bread is buttered in Southern Africa. Zimbabwe senior soccer team coach Charles Mhlauri, who was part of the crew that went to Egypt to fight for the local cause, said the region’s battle in the Nations Cup race was weakened by the big number of bidding countries. He was also not happy that Cosafa, as a bloc, did not lobby for, at least, just two bids from this region. “I think it is an area that Southern Africa must address and come together,” said Mhlauri in his analysis. “It showed during the elections for the Fifa executive committee when they split the vote between Bhamjee and Oliphant Molife that there would be no success without unity. “As long as there is no strategic plan as a region we will always lose it because I noticed that some of the strong North African countries did not submit bids which meant they were backing Libya. “After the presentations one of the Caf officials mentioned to me that Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia had very strong presentations but something should have been worked out between all the countries in this region.” Mhlauri had hoped the Caf chiefs would have some bias towards Southern African given that the region has only hosted the continental showpiece once, the 1996 tournament that was staged and won by South Africa. Cosafa secretary-general Mamelodi told The Chronicle, a daily newspaper based in Bulawayo, on Tuesday that Southern African countries should not lose heart after the fiasco in Cairo two weeks ago. “It is clear that we are not going to host the finals in the near future and I understand why people are not happy and complaining. “It is a pity that nothing can change at the moment, we just have to take it as it is. “I think we should continue working hard and build the stadiums that we said we are going to build when we went for the bid in Egypt. “If countries can go ahead and do what they said they would do, despite losing the bid for 2010, I think it will put them in a favourable position in the future when they want to bid again.” Mamelodi conceded that the playing surface was not even and said that was the disappointing part of the process. While Mamelodi, who probably feels it is not right to rock the Caf boat given his enior position in the organisation, has been diplomatic, other voices from the region are rabid. The Minister of Education, Sport and Culture in Zimbabwe, Aeneas Chigwedere, blasted the Caf leadership with a stinging attack on its ethics and morales. Chigwedere said the Caf leadership was insensitive to the interests of Southern African nations and was only interested in oil-producing countries. “For us or any other Southern Africa country to win the tournament bid, that country has either to translocate to North Africa or West Africa or stumble on huge oil deposits. Hayatou’s administration has long been criticised for having a bias towards West and North Africa countries. Hayatou is from Cameroon while his offices are based in Egypt. Southern Africa has only hosted one Nations Cup finals and that was in 1996 when South Africa got their chance ‘ by default ‘ after Kenya ran out of time. Zimbabwe should have hosted the tournament four years later but lost her rights in another controversial move linked to the fallout that followed the Fifa elections in France in 1998. Hayatou had promised Uefa boss Lennart Johansson that he would deliver all votes from the African camp in his battle against Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency. But Southern and Eastern African nations rebelled against Hayatou and voted for Blatter who won convincingly. Since then Southern African countries have been punished by the Caf leadership which is still being headed by Hayatou. Sadly the Cosafa leadership has been silenced by Hayatou and his cartel and now there is a rebel camp that believes the only way to confront the Caf Mafia is to do away with Bhamjee and Mamelodi.

May 2006
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