[:en]The South African sports minister, Fikile Mbalula has denied allegations that his country bribed Fifa officials in order to secure votes for the 2010 World Cup.
A payment of $10m made to the Caribbean Football Union in 2008 is central to the recent corruption allegations that has engulfed Fifa, a storm that has grown since last week when US and Swiss authorities made numerous arrests in Zurich and resulted in the resignation of Sepp Blatter on Tuesday.
South Africa was awarded the 2010 World Cup in 2004 ahead of Morocco, but the US indictment released by America’s department of justice last week alleged that: “a high-ranking Fifa official caused payments … totalling $10m – to be wired from a Fifa account in Switzerland to a Bank of America correspondent account in New York … controlled by Jack Warner”.
Warner was then president of Concacaf and the US indictment alleges that the $10m payment made through Fifa channels resulted in three members of the organisation’s executive committee voting in favour of the World Cup being awarded to South Africa.
Mbalula told a press conference in Johannesburg: “The South African government and local organising committee has not paid any bribe to anyone to secure the rights to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup. We will approach the United States authorities through the diplomatic channels to share with us the indictment and any information that they have to enable us to study the facts carefully and to take appropriate action.
“We frown upon allegations that suggest that South Africa has paid a bribe. We also clarify that payments made for approved projects can never be construed as bribery and that any insinuation to the contrary will be met with our rebuke.
“The fact that a payment of $10m was made to an approved programme above board, does not equate to bribery. Those that allege should prove the allegations. We have never been spokespersons for Fifa and do not intend to speak on behalf of Fifa.
“We wish to categorically deny that our country and government bribed anyone to secure the rights for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. We wish to indicate that as the current minister had noted the payment of the $10m in the indictment was not through government coffers or the local organising committee. I can today unequivocally state for all to know that this payment was not a bribe.”
The Fifa secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, this week denied responsibility for the $10m payment, writing in an email to the New York Times that he did not authorise the payment and did not have the power to do so. Fifa said the transaction was executed by the finance committee chairman Julio Grondona, who died last year.
However, on a dramatic day just hours before Blatter’s resignation announcement, a letter emerged from the South African Football Association in 2008 that was addressed specifically to Valcke and contained detailed information about how the payment should be processed.
The letter from Safa president ,Molefi Oliphant to Valcke read: “In view of the decision by the South African government that an amount of USD 10m from the organising committee’s future operational budget funding and thereafter advances the amount to the Diaspora Legacy Programme. In addition, Safa requests that the Diaspora Legacy Programme be administered and implemented directly by the president of Concacaf who shall act as a fiduciary of the fund.”