ZURICH: A judicial commission of inquiry is being launched by the South African government into the matchfixing scandal at the heart of the national team’s preparations for ‘its own’ 2010 World Cup finals writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
This outcome emerged after the on-off-on summit between FIFA and South African Football Associations leaders eventually went ahead at the world federation’s headquarters in Zurich.
Interpol was called in last December to assist with a criminal investigation into the scandal which threatened SAFA with the worst corruption scandal in its history.
SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani, incoming ceo Dennis Mumble and three other senior officials – referees Adeel Carelse, head of national teams Lindile Kika, and former head of national teams Barney Kujane – had been suspended after publication of a FIFA report into match-fixing at 2010 warm-up games.
The report had been compiled completed by FIFA’s former head of security, Chris Eaton, after it emerged that a bogus football development company, Football 4U, provided referees for the warm-up matches. The company was later discovered to be a front for an Asian-based betting syndicate headed up by Wilson Raj Perumal, who was later convicted of match-fixing.
SAFA apologised to FIFA over “compelling evidence” that the results of World Cup warm-up matches were fixed.
The suspended officials had their bans scrapped on technicalities in time for South Africa to be able to play a full-hearted role as host to the African Nations Cup in January and February.
However the issue had not gone away and, after the intervention of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, SAFA’s national executive set up a committee to study the creation of an independent commission of inquiry.
A FIFA summons to a Zurich summit was issued to Nematandani and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula but, on Tuesday, the meeting was cancelled at short notice apparently over concerns of government interference.
Further talks resolved those issues and led to the South Africans flying to Zurich the following day for Mbalula and Nematandani to meet FIFA secretary-general Jérôme Valcke.
The diplomatic conclusion was that an independent judicial commission of inquiry will be set up by the South African government but with FIFA represented by by its ethics investigator/prosecutor Michael Garcia. This would apparently satisfy FIFA concerns about government control over the issue and, hence, the South African Football Associaction.
This proposed commission must yet be approved formally by the government of Jacob Zuma.
Valcke said: “This long-standing open case is harming South African football. It is vital that this matter which dates back to 2010 is concluded soon, with the culprits to be sanctioned in accordance with the zero tolerance policy.
“At the same time it is critical that structures are set-up in order to tackle similar cases should they happen in the future.
“I am very pleased by the commitment of the South African government and also SAFA to make sure this matter is now dealt with as a highest priority.
“FIFA will provide any advice and support possible both at investigatory and disciplinary level. To this effect a representative from FIFA’s Security Division was also at today’s meeting. ”
Nematandani, whose position remains questionable, described the meeting as “very fruitful. ” He said he would present the inquiry proposal to SAFA executive tomorrow for approval.
Mbalula, in comments of his own, justified his government’s direct involvement in the process while casting veiled concerns over his perception of the will of SAFA to resolve the issue.
He said: “The rise of match manipulation globally has become one of the most pressing issues facing football today.
“I understand fully that FIFA needs strong action from associations like SAFA to tackle this problem.
“Therefore it is vitally important that national authorities such as ourselves play a full role.I firmly believe today’s meeting is a major step in bringing to a close an episode that has damaged South African football.
“We have made a pledge to FIFA today that we will support them and SAFA to bring this to an end.”
# # # # #