Harare – Gloves are off in South Africa with everything pointing to a bruising boardroom battle for the presidency of the South African Football Association (SAFA), while hawks have been sharpening their swords for one last battle at the end of the month in their quest to dislodge the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) leadership from their posts in Zimbabwe.
Former South African referee, Ace Ncobo, is challenging SAFA president Danny Jordaan for the leadership of the region’s richest football governing body but the process leading to the day of the elections is courting a lot of controversies.
The SAFA Congress brought forward the date of the elections from September to March 24 and already two other contenders – former Bafana Bafana captain Lucas Radebe and Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana – have seen their challenge fall by the wayside after they were deemed ineligible to stand in the polls.
Jordaan, who successfully organised the 2010 FIFA World Cup, is standing for re-election and is tipped to win by a landslide considering the massive support which he enjoys in 48 of the 52 SAFA regions.
However, Ncobo is crying foul and, at the weekend, released a hard-hitting statement condemning the whole exercise.
He accuses SAFA of allegedly violating their Electoral Code and the drama has been worsened by the withdrawal of the Electoral Commission of South Africa that had been tasked with handling the electoral process.
However, the former top referee on Friday evening released a hard-hitting statement, declaring SAFA’s attempts to hold the presidential elections this month unconstitutional and in violation of its own electoral code.
“Following a drawn-out process of going through the FIFA, CAF and SAFA Statutes and Electoral Codes, at the end of which it became clear that several constitutional imperatives were grossly violated in preparing for the SAFA Elective Congress scheduled for the 24th of March 2018, I decided to write to the IEC which had been appointed to oversee the electoral processes,” Ncobo says in his statement.
“I wrote to the IEC after exchanging numerous emails with the SAFA CEO, Mr Dennis Mumble, who also acts as the Secretary of the Electoral Committee, bringing to his attention some of these gross violations of processes.
“When it became apparent that SAFA was hell-bent on proceeding with an elective congress whose very convocation earlier than the initial date was initiated with motives that had nothing to do with football.
“I was left with no option but to address my concerns to other authoritative bodies. One of those was the IEC itself. The IEC has today, 9 March 2018, responded to my letter dated 6 March 2018 and confirmed its decision to terminate its involvement in SAFA elections.
“Without an Electoral Committee, SAFA is left with no option but to postpone these elections and retrace its steps such that the election processes are correctly followed.
“Article 4(3) of the Electoral Code prescribes that the Electoral Committee must be elected at a general assembly at least six months before an elective congress. Since that is the first step to be performed, this means the election cannot take place earlier than six months.
“I hope that President Danny Jordaan and his executive will accept this as an opportunity to accept that the Statutes of the Association reign supreme over any individual or a group of individuals who happen to hold positions of power.
“This is hopefully a lesson that holding an absolute majority in the executive structure does not grant anyone the right to violate statutes via a show of hands.
“I am sure the football-loving public will await eagerly the decision of the current SAFA President to resign from his position.
“His primary task is to uphold and respect the constitution of SAFA. For him to be complicit in its violation is a serious indictment on his leadership and continued involvement with the Association.”
SAFA, in response, issued a statement in which they threatened to sue the IEC and also clarified a number of issues.
It said the process of nominations by SAFA members has been completed and the list of candidates for the office of the president of the Association was circulated to members on 3 March 2018.
The SAFA audit was released on Wednesday evening and was forwarded to the Electoral Committee early on Thursday morning to enable the vetting of candidates.
SAFA said the last step in the process was the actual election, which is scheduled for 24 March 2018.
However, the IEC for reasons unknown to SAFA has decided not to proceed with conducting the elections on 24 March 2018, the statement said.
“SAFA’s Members overwhelmingly voted on 24 August 2013 to appoint the IEC as the Electoral Committee based on its independence and it is very concerning that this decision has now been compromised by the very body that had agreed to conduct a free and fair electoral process.
“As of the release of this statement, no reasons were advanced to the Association for their decision and, to our disappointment; we had to learn this through the media. The Association has been trying to engage the IEC Head Office, to no avail.
“We believe strongly that the IEC’s action is unethical and unprofessional and shall pursue legal action against it. The Association has been severely prejudiced as a result of this administrative action without an opportunity to respond to whatever complaints may have been lodged about the process.
“The decision to call the Elective Congress on 24 March 2018 is the decision of the highest decision-making body of the Association; the SAFA Congress, and that decision remains.
“The Association has also invited representatives from COSAFA, CAF and FIFA to monitor and oversee the election.”
Across the Limpopo, in Zimbabwe, there are some hawks who also claim that the mandate of the current national football leadership expires at the end of the month and, since an Electoral Committee was only named last month, the polls cannot proceed and the game will not have a leadership and could slip into a constitutional crisis.
The ZIFA leaders have written to FIFA to get guidance on their election roadmap, which was endorsed by Congress at their meeting last month, and have argued that their Electoral Code is also very clear that, unless another poll is held, those who had been elected remain in charge.
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa has also been arguing that the Constitution does not have any provisions where the president of the Association is elected on an ad-hoc basis, to serve for a term less than the full four years, and those who claim he only came in to complete the mandate left by former leader Cuthbert Dube, are wrong.
Dube had his mandate as ZIFA president revoked by the Congress in 2015, a year after being re-elected into that position, and Chiyangwa was elected to take over as leader of Zimbabwean football on December 5 that year.
Chiyangwa, as the COSAFA president, is also expected to provide counsel on the drama related to the SAFA elections and the Harare businessman was due in Johannesburg this week.