Allegations of corruption in Safa structures denied

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JON HOUZET

A TOP official in local South African Football Association (Safa) structures has denied there is anything untoward about securing a Safa bursary for his son, who does not play football.

Safa Sarah Baartman Region president Mziwanele Wopa was responding to allegations by a local football team that he made decisions for personal financial benefit or to benefit friends.

The management of the Teenagers Football Club, from Ekuphumleni in Kenton-on-Sea, brought their complaint to TotT after an exchange of letters with Wopa in August and September as well as an appeal to provincial structures, which elicited no response.

Teenagers manager Ntobeko Magwaxaza, assistant coach Mncedi Somxo and trainer Similo Mbabela were accompanied by their sponsor Ronald Engert, who they have relied on to draft letters and send correspondence by e-mail.

Engert, who makes player’s cards which they have to use to prove they are registered with a team, said Wopa’s son, Luthando, had come to him with two Young Chiefs players and wanted to play his card.

“Later I was told this young man has never been playing soccer and is not interested. So why do they need the player card for a person is not playing? Then I heard Wopa had received a Safa bursary for his son,” Engert said.

He asked Wopa about it, and provided TotT with Wopa’s written response that he had personally explained the bursary opportunities on two occasions, once to Port Alfred clubs and once to clubs in Kenton-Marselle.

“He said the only condition for the bursary was that you have to be a black South African,” Engert said.

“We never heard about the bursary, it was never advertised. We have Grade 12 players,” said Teenagers manager Ntobeko Mlamla.

“We believe he abused an official position for personal financial gain.”

Engert said the second complaint related to a game between the Teenagers and the Young Chiefs. They discovered that the Chiefs had fielded three players from other teams (two from Cacadu FC Alexandria – Siyabonga Johannes and Ayanda Sifunda, and one from Junior Sundowns FC Marselle – Khayalethu Twani) in two regular Ndlambe Local Football Association (NLFA) games, in contravention of the Safa Uniform Rules.

The Teenagers and the other affected team reported this to the officials at the game and the NLFA. The NLFA informed the affected teams that the Young Chiefs had forfeited the points they made. But subsequently the Teenagers received a letter from Safa Sarah Baartman region, signed by B Jonas, that the decision of the NLFA (the Kenton/Marselle stream committee) was null and void because they did not follow the correct process and did not present their case in time.

The Teenagers appealed, and received a strange response, sent from Wopa’s e-mail address, that although Safa’s letterhead was on the verdict of August 13, Safa did not preside over the matter. It was said to be a “mistake” by the NLFA disciplinary committee. The Teenagers sent their appeal again, and on August 31 were surprised to receive the exact same verdict with same letter content back as of August 13, but now under the logo of the NLFA and signed by Bongani Mashibo Jibiliza.

Teenagers management said this cast suspicion on the appeal process itself. They felt it was done to favour the Young Chiefs so they would be able to go to the playoffs.

Responding to the issue of the bursary, Wopa told TotT he was also a teacher at Ikamvalesizwe Combined School, where his son matriculated in 2012.

“When the Fifa Legacy bursary scheme was established after the 2010 Fifa World Cup, I was always appealing to members to inform clubs in their localities about Fifa Legacy stating that clubs should assist pupils, especially the poor black children, even if one is not playing football as long as they will commit to contribute to football upon the completion of the funded studies,” Wopa said.

“Besides this I had consistently informed the matric class teacher in my school about this bursary, asking her to even refer the pupils to me for assistance when applying.”

He said he had done the same at Nompucuko Combined School in Marselle.

Wopa admitted his son did not play football, “but is a recruit of Young Chiefs earmarked for management”.

“Being a regional president I never came across any clause prohibiting a member of any Safa structure or a dependent thereof from benefiting from the bursary.”

Chairman of the NLFA, Andile Marasi, responded to the issue of the Teenagers complaint about the Young Chiefs.

“We are doing everything according to Safa Uniform Rules. Procedures must be followed,” Marasi said.

He said the LFA unit committee did not have the authority to decide on any alleged transgression by the Young Chiefs, but had to refer it to the NLFA.

“The disciplinary committee handled the matter and the verdict was given. I can’t answer for the disciplinary committee.”

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