JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s government is furious with the United States Justice Department for considering the $10m payment of a football legacy grant to be a bribe writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula hit back in Johannesburg as speculation swirled around the manner in which the cash had been routed through world federation FIFA to the central and north American confederation.
The US indictment of 14 senior FIFA and marketing officials last week had deemed the cash to be a bribe due for votes controlled by then CONCACAF president Jack Warner when South Africa landed host rights to the 2010 World Cup.
However Mbalula responded angrily, denied the money was a bribe, criticised the Americans for not sharing their evidence and demanded to be brought into the investigatory loop.
The money, he said, had been channelled to CONCACAF from a programme designed to use legacy funds for the African diaspora worldwide. Other countries to benefit included Mali, Burundi and Mozambique.
Mbalula said: “We have not bribed anyone. We are not opposed to the US investigation. It is for this reason that they should share with us their evdience for statements which impact negatively on the reputation of South Africa.
“It is forgotten that we lost the 2006 vote to Germany by only one vote to signify how good our bid was. Also forgotten is 10 years of work invested in the 2010 bid. Why should anyone doubt our winning the rights for South African competence in staging world-class mega events; an emerging state which can stand toe to toe with the biggest nations in the world.
“We would still have won without allocating any resources to the Caribbean. The money was never tied to the issue of votes.”
Mbalula dismissed the fact that a letter referring to the payment had been addressed to FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke. This, for Mbalula was merely protocol since Valcke was FIFA’s World Cup point man.
He added: “We are not on trial. What we are saying is that we did not bribe anyway. We had made a commitment to support the diaspora because that was part and parcel of our policy to support our African brothers.
“We cannot account for how the money was used nor are we in a position to accuse anyone . . . . we are not sniffer dogs to check whether anyone is legitimate.”
Recalling the 2010 bid campaign, Mbalula said: “We won the bid clean. We had Madiba [Nelson Mandela], the Bishop [Archbishop Desmond Tutu] and the spirit of our people. It was Africa’s time so there was nothing much we needed to do.
“Anyway this money which is alleged to be a bribe was processed long after it was decided that South Africa would host the 2010 World Cup.”
Mbalula had spoken with all the leaders of the bid campaign to confirm that no wrongdoing had been undertaken – and he attacked the manner in which the US authorities allegation had made the claim.
He continued: “As to other things it is for the British and the Americans to fight their battles. We are not part of their vested interest. We have fought colonialism and we will fight imperialism. We will never be signatories to an injustice and people parading themselves as world policemen.
“We want football to be clean and support any endeavour that leads to that. What we are basically addressing is that we are prepared to explain this to anyone, including the FBI.
“They can wake us up any time. I am going to see Floyd Mayweather so they can see me on my way to America soon. We are ready to explain and to dissuade them from believing it was a bribe.”
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