Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has reiterated that the South African government did not participate in any bribery scheme for the country to secure the rights to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Minister Mbalula on Wednesday held a press conference in Johannesburg to respond to allegations that bribes were paid to secure the world cup hosting rights. At the centre of the allegations is a letter from the South African Football Association (SAFA) addressed to FIFA instructing the world football body to withhold $10 million from the LOC’s future operational budget funding and aance the withheld money to the Diaspora Legacy Progamme which SAFA supported at the blessing of the government. This is because the government wanted the world cup legacy in South Africa to be felt beyond the African continent and should extend to the diaspora.
The controversy comes in a week that saw the dramatic arrests of several high ranking FIFA officials in Zurich during raids by Swiss police acting at United States request in a corruption scandal that was followed by the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Tuesday night. The arrested officials face a range of charges including racketeering and money laundering, spanning 24 years.
But in the two-hour press conference held at SAFA headquarters at FNB stadium, Minister Mbalula said there was nothing untoward about the $10 million donation made to the Confederation of North, Central American and Carribean Association Football (Concacaf) in 2008.
The money paid to Concacaf was meant to go towards the organisation’s development. The $10 million was deducted from the legacy fund that FIFA paid to SAFA as part of hosting the world cup.
“We never bribed anyone. There was no bribe. This was a dully allocated payment for an approved project. We had reiterated that the world cup in South Africa was to benefit the continent as well as those of our people in the diaspora,” Minister Mbalula said.
In two separate statements issued this week, government had explained that South Africa had won the bid to host the 2010 World Cup in 2004 and that by the time the donation was made in 2008, it would not make sense for it to be seen as a bribe.
Former President Thabo Mbeki also issued a statement last week, distancing the government from any untoward activity relating to the tournament. Mbeki was President when South Africa won the bid in 2004 and became the first African country to host the event.
“I am not aware of anybody who solicited a bribe from the Government for the purpose of our country being awarded the right to host the World Cup. I wish to state that the Government that I had the privilege to lead would never have paid any bribe even if it were solicited,” Mbeki said.
On Wednesday, Minister Mbalula said he had contacted both the former president and Danny Jordan who headed the World Cup organizing committee to seek clarity on the matter.
“All the responses I have got is that South Africa never paid any bribe. We also do not understand why this alleged bribe was paid years after we won the bid. We have a responsibility to defend the legacy of the world cup. The money that was paid was for the development of football in the Caribbean and was never meant for abuse by individuals,” Minister Mbalula said.
He said the South African government would handle the matter through diplomatic channels through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. Pretoria would approach the United States authorities “to furnish us with any information they may have which makes them believe that what we paid was a bribe”.
“We distance ourselves from the allegations that South Africa paid a bribe. We have clarified that payments made for approved projects can never be construed as bribery. We have requested our minister of International Relations to follow up the allegations from the United States authorities, we have not received a response in this regard,” he said.
Source : SAnews.gov.za