South African government set to tackle match-fixing case

The South African government is poised to establish an independent judicial commission of enquiry into the match-fixing scandal surrounding the national team, it was announced on Friday.

The development came following a meeting held at FIFA headquarters between South Africa’s Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, South African Football Association (SAFA) president Kirsten Nematandani and FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke. The judicial investigation will be formed to look into irregularities concerning friendly games played by South Africa in the build-up to its hosting of the 2010 World Cup. SAFA in January moved to reinstate Nematandani and four other senior officials amid ongoing investigations into the scandal. SAFA in December announced that Nematandani had been suspended indefinitely, along with chief executive Dennis Mumble, Lindile Kika, Adeel Carelse and Barney Kujane. The development came after FIFA handed SAFA a 500-page report investigating the activities of convicted Singapore match fixer Wilson Raj Perumal and his Football 4U organisation. The report named the five officials. FIFA’s report alleged that South Africa’s 2010 World Cup warm-up matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala were the victims of match-fixing. SAFA said the suspended officials asked Perumal to arrange opponents for South Africa as the national team stepped up its preparations ahead of the tournament hosted in the country. The officials are then said to have agreed to Perumal’s suggestion he bring in and pay referees from other African countries to handle the matches with these officials then acting to fix the games to benefit an Asian betting syndicate.

However, a meeting of SAFA’s executive committee decided that its emergency committee acted beyond its mandate in issuing the suspensions. SAFA stated that the officials had been portrayed as guilty despite the fact that the due process had yet to be completed. FIFA on Friday said that the judicial body of its Ethics Committee, represented by its independent chairman Michael J. Garcia, has been proposed to be part of the newly-formed special commission. The proposal is backed by SAFA as well as the Minister of Sports, but is subject to constitutional approval by the government. “This long-standing open case is harming South African football,” said Valcke. “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.”

Mbalula added: “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.”