What the hell is going on at SAFA…?
Harare ‑ The South African Football Association (SAFA) elections set for September have created an explosive battleground, where allegations of millions in looted public funds pop up every day.
This has attracted both media and investigative hawks, as an historic World Cup success story slowly turns into a gigantic national fraud.
South African football is not a place for the faint-hearted as opponents slug it out in a bruising boardroom battle, which has spilled into the public domain, threatening to expose the corruption and mismanagement that has been rampant at Africa’s richest football federation.
Every day apparently now brings a new twist to the controversy that was sparked by a dossier, which contained allegations of mismanagement within the corridors of football leadership in South Africa, which was delivered anonymously at SAFA House, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Sport and FIFA.
Already SAFA leaders have a running issue with FIFA over allegations that friendly international matches, played by Bafana Bafana in the countdown to the 2010 World Cup finals, could have been fixed by some shadowy Asian betting syndicates.
Allegations contained in the explosive dossier, which has been dismissed by SAFA officials as lacking in substance, paint a picture of a football federation, which had turned into a gravy train in the countdown to the 2010 World Cup, from where those who were riding on its coaches could loot as much as they wanted.
Millions of dollars, and football equipment, according to the dossier, were looted by SAFA officials while the globe focused on the historic hosting of the first World Cup to be staged on African soil.
The dossier claims the SAFA leadership, which has faced a number of challenges in recent months including the suspension and subsequent reinstatement of some key personnel, spent R123 million on personal use.
There are allegations that of the R113-million that SAFA received in the past two years from the “FIFA World Cup legacy fund” for the development of football in the Rainbow Nation, about R8 million was used to buy luxurious vehicles like Mercedes Benzes.
SAFA officials confirm that R8 million of the World Cup cashflow was used to buy 27 Mercedes Benz vehicles a year after the showcase and, just a year later, the same organisation reported a staggering loss of about R54 million. While the explosive dossier might have been an anonymous product, focus will certainly be thrown on the SAFA finances now that KPMG has audited their accounts for the year ending June 2012 and, in those fine details, a true picture of the state of affairs in the country’s national game could emerge.
A flood of reports showing that SAFA suffered huge losses have already emerged around the world, all sourced from that audited report, and South African football fans have been discussing the explosive reports on the Bafana Bafana Facebook page.
On that page, there is a quote from SAFA president, Kirsten Nematandani, who confirms they bought Mercedes Benz vehicles because the German carmaker was also the organisation’s sponsor.
“We needed to support the brands that support us,” Nematandani is quoted as saying.
But it is the backlash from the game’s fans, on the same social media page, which captures the anger that is raging among South African football supporters as the full details of how their national game has been mismanaged begin to emerge.
“Give money to your sponsor? How ridiculous,” commented Vuyisani Mbi. “If anybody cares for our football, these guys need to go, pronto.”
Thompson Tommynator Makhubela chose to describe SAFA as the “South African Fools Association.”
Another fan, Pumlani Mavela, said South Africa was turning into a disgrace of a nation, weighed down by corruption, and the stinking picture emerging in football just told a tip of the iceberg.
“Corruption at its best, SA is a disgrace country,” said Mavela. Mukhacani Willem said it was time for a change in personnel running the game because “these morons are taking us nowhere and, while at it, ruining our game.”
Another fan, Mncedisi Msizi Gamede, said he couldn’t understand the SAFA president’s explanation.
“There is a huge contradiction in Kirsten Nematandani statement as well as SAFA statement.” Someone, though, felt what was important was that Bafana Bafana were not showing signs of life and any other issues, including corporate governance, or the lack of it, didn’t matter much at this point.
“Who cares?” asked Nkanyiso Ethiopian Mathamba. “We are busy reclaiming the glory.” A FIFA insider told The Southern Times that the world football governing body had lost its patience with SAFA, largely because of the match-fixing scandal and the mismanagement, and was now pushing for a better management of the organisation.
“It’s very clear that FIFA has lost its trust in SAFA and believes heads must roll although it is careful that things should be done the football way,” said the insider.
“There is pressure being exerted on SAFA because the things that are coming from South Africa do not make very good reading and there are fears in FIFA that all this mess could spill onto their corridors.
“It’s a shame, really, especially when you take into account that the World Cup was a huge success and about US$3 billion (R27m), in public funds, was pumped into that project.”