Mbalula Hits Back At FIFA

On Wednesday FIFA oultined how it believes South Africa bribed its way to the hosting rights for the 2010 World Cup.  The global football governing body alleges that a US$10 million payment meant to aid the African football Diaspora Legacy Project in the Caribbean islands was in fact nothing but a bribe to former FIFA vice president Jack Warner.  On Thursday SA sports minister Fikile Mbalula hit back at the confederation with the following statement:

As a proud product of and champion of democracy, I begin by congratulating FIFA on their successful congress held in Zurich at their headquarters at the end of February 2016. I trust that this positive step is the much needed harbinger of courage and progressive thinking of the members of this august global organisation.  I have already congratulated Mr Gianni Infantino on his election and assured him of our commitment to continue building on the solid foundation manifest through our good working relations, collaboration, fraternity and love.  The 2010 FIFA World Cup remains the most successful FIFA World Cup ever and it is a travesty to label this giant achievement as questionable!

South Africa won the rights to host the FIFA World Cup based on merit and delivered the most successful World Cup in the history of FIFA.

The election has come to pass and it is to the challenges that lie ahead I now turn. 

I convened this conference to address two specific matters of national importance that are pertinent to sustainability and growth of football within our shores and beyond.  It is in the interest of sport, on this occasion football, the most popular sport in our continent and abroad, that of necessity we address the nation and the world of football on:

  • The Pertinent matter of the allegations of match-fixing in the warm up FIFA 2010 World Cup matches involving our senior men’s Team (Bafana Bafana). 
  • The recent media reports triggered by the F?d?ration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) filing Victim Statement and Request for Restitution with the United States District Court. 

I take the trouble of briefing you to ensure that you write and speak fully informed of our perspective and campaign to safe-guard sport. South Africa refuses to drown itself in the blame and victim-mentality game.  The FBI Indictment and FIFA orchestrated investigations are loaded by explosive contradictions that we will expose in the course of our presentation. For an example, how is it possible that FIFA being the subject of FBI investigation becomes miraculously a victim and pretends that it is no longer FIFA?  The blame is now transferred to other structures and FIFA exonerates its own governing structures that took the decisions and that had overseen the implementation thereof.  

It is utterly unique in world history where an organisation turns on itself to disown the decisions taken by its own governance structures.  The failure of football’s world governing body to regulate its own officials, as it has indicated in its press release, cannot be placed at the doorstep of South Africa and its people. 

The ideas propounded by both the local and international press are loaded with dangerous insinuations which we will debunk with rational confrontation. 

The narrative is not only flawed but is without doubt seeking to achieve a particular objective by falsifying a historical record and thereby find our government guilty of collusion and involvement in acts of corruption and fraud.  The truth, nothing but the truth must be told.

I took this drastic step of convening this press conference informed by the seriousness with which our domestic laws forbid fraud and corruption. I am mindful that whatever steps we take, such must pass the test of legal scrutiny and rigours of the law.

On the matter of the allegations of match-fixing, you will recall that we have been seized with this matter since it surfaced and brought to our attention by SAFA in 2011.  I dealt with the matter from a line function point of view extensively.  In light of information and compelling evidence placed before us, at the time, I escalated the  matter the to Presidency by requesting the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry into these allegations of match-fixing as they related to South African citizens and to investigate the role of foreign agencies. 

FIFA informed the SA Government at the time that they were already investigating the matter internally.  In order to avoid running a dual process and duplicating effort, the South African Government resolved to hold its own investigation in abeyance to allow the FIFA process to run its full course and conclude. 

FIFA in turn appointed its Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee to investigate these allegations of match-fixing. The investigations had been dragging on for over three years and I  have been part of numerous deputations and made numerous submissions to FIFA appealing for the acceleration of the perennial investigations as they were causing double jeopardy to the good name of our country and to the football loving people at home and abroad.  Now that the investigations have been finalised, the South African Government is requesting FIFA to furnish us with the report in order decide on the course of action to be taken.

 During my most recent meeting with the Chairman of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee Dr Cornel Borbely/Obi in Zurich, in the presence of the President of SAFA Dr Danny Jordan, I persisted with my plea for acceleration and bringing the matter to closure so that South African citizens fingered in the investigation can either be cleared or face the consequences of the own action.  Dr Borbely/Obi assured me that the investigation was proceeding well and made a firm undertaking that he will inform me of the outcomes of the investigations as soon as they were folded.

Regrettably Ladies and Gentlemen Dr Borbely/Obi did not honour his undertaking as he announced on the 14th of March 2016 the sanctioning of three South African citizens.  Given my personal proximity to the issue at hand, I was taken aback by the announcement of the sanction as it was not in keeping with our agreement.  That certainly is an aberration to the high moral standards that civilised woman and man of honour should uphold.  This is contrary to the stature and values espoused as the centre of  ethical conduct, a not-for-profit organisation that owes its existence “to the game of football constantly and promote it globally in the light of its unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian value, particularly through youth and development programmes”.  I am disappointed that our African humanism has been reproached with inhumanity. As the Ministry we take affront to this unhelpful way of conducting business.  We are not asking for favours or patronage.  We are here for accountability, transparency, democracy and respect of our sovereignty.  

I have informed Dr Borbely/Obi of my disappointment and disapproval of his modus operandi and requested that the South African Government be furnished with the report and outcomes of the investigation as agreed at our last meeting.  We will continue to safeguard sport, promote transparency and good governance.  To do that we do no need to be and a mature economy, we will built these values now so that they evolve with our emerging and developmental state character. Justice must be seen and perceived to be done.

I have been informed by the South African Football Association that the investigations on match-fixing have now been closed.  This now paves the way open for me to meet with the Presidency to decide on whether to further conduct our investigation as Government and decide on the nature and form this investigation will take. 

Those individuals fingered and sanctioned are within their right to take these decisions on review within and outside FIFA legal institutions.  We will make our own assessment on the next steps to be taken in relation to the infractions that have bearings to our own domestic laws. 

On the second matter that has also been mishandled with no regard to international protocols and diplomatic channels.  There has been no formal approach to our government.  To date we are not in possession of any of the reports on the investigations.  FIFA yesterday issued a statement indicating that they lodged a claim in a US Court to recover monies from the individuals who misappropriated funds by abusing their positions as FIFA representatives. FIFA allege that the individuals abused their positions in order to funnel money allocated for football projects to their personal accounts, for their personal use.  One of the items listed as part of the restitution claim is the $10 million dollars that was allocated for the African Diaspora and the Caribbean region.

The South African government maintains its position that the African Diaspora Legacy Programme was a legitimate programme of the South African Government.  The government will not apologise for this progressive stance to the African Diaspora and for including the Diaspora in the pride and honour of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  To infer or insinuate anything else, including diminishing such an important part of the African continent’s history as an elaborate ruse to issue a bribe, is despicable.

The South African Government considers it an insult to reduce one of its hallmark programmes that recognised the struggles and achievements of African people around the world to a mere caricature and incubator for bribery. 

FIFA has been running a trial through the media whilst targeting a few individuals in its ‘scotched- missile’ style of investigations.

 FIFA lawyers have recently written to three prominent football administrators in our shores, requesting them to answer a barrage of questions on short notice. Though the three eminent South Africans expressed their willingness to me to co-operate with the investigators and FIFA lawyers, I have written to the Minister of Justice and Correctional service to request his intervention by forcing these capricious lawyers from undermining South African sovereignty and work through the relevant law enforcement agencies and diplomatic channels when dealing with our citizens.  I will ensure that we do not allow South African citizens to be victims of global syndicates and subjects of unfair treatment by global bodies that show no regard to the sovereignty of our state. 

I end by re-iterating our stand as stated in our statement of May 2015 through which we informed South African Citizens and the world of football that the 10 million US Dollars was approved with the understanding that the funds be utilised either by FIFA for benefits of its member associations and to benefit the Caribbean region.

 I have received a confirmation letter from the South African Football Association (SAFA) stating that the matter was above aboard and was approved by FIFA.  It is now ludicrous and insane for FIFA to seek to cast an aspersion on our country by suggesting that we were are part a syndicate to defraud and to corrupt our officials and businesses involved in football.

The South African Government has at its disposal information and a letter from FIFA wherein it confirms a legacy programme of 80 million US Dollars: 70 million US Dollars for an African Legacy Programme and 10 million US Dollars for the African Diaspora Legacy Programme.  Does this mean that the African Members of the FIFA Executive Committee were also bribed by the $70 million Legacy Programme?  That is an important question I am seeking an answer fro from FIFA and audited reports on the utilisation of these funds.

The South African Government considers it an insult to reduce one of its hallmark programmes that recognised the struggles and achievements of African people around the world to a mere caricature and incubator for bribery.  FIFA must apologise for this insult!

The insinuation by FIFA in its statement on the “illicit relationship” between South Africa and Mr Warner is contemptible. Mr Warner was hosted not only by South Africa, but also by countless other countries.

South Africa did not pay a bribe, nor did it conspire to illegally attain the rights to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  

The information that has been reported by FIFA is a regurgitation of information from the indictments.  There is therefore no new evidence to occasion drastic actions to be taken against any individuals or body.    

We will take the matter up with FIFA in a meeting that we have requested SAFA to convene urgently.

We will continue dealing with the indictments of the FBI through our diplomatic channels.