For many years, allegations of corruption in South African football, and in the National First Division, in particular, have existed and as the fight for PSL promotion intensifies, the same issue of match-fixing is rearing its ugly head … AGAIN.

High-ranking football officials have been fingered to be part of a broad syndicate that decides winners, not on the field of play, but in air-conditioned offices; not in jerseys and soccer boots in front of the spectators, but paradoxically, in very expensive shoes, shirts and ties behind closed doors.

Amid the fresh allegations that have now fixed the spotlight on the refereeing in the Glad Africa Championship, the South African Football Association (SAFA) has come out to speak against this alleged corruption in this league, promising that heads would roll. Yes, they said heads would roll! And perhaps that’s where we need to stop and ask, which heads? Whose head? Like when? To what end?

Before we attempt to answer some of these questions, let’s bring to the fore the feeling of hopelessness and distrust that exists in this league. Earlier this week, TS Galaxy Boss, Tim Sukazi, lamented what could be summed up as broad daylight robbery most of the clubs in the NFD are subjected to. This followed TS Galaxy’s highly questionable 2-1 loss to Real Kings at the Kameelrivier Stadium last week Saturday.

“I think our biggest frustration was scoring the first goal when it was least expected, by the look of things, I’d say. Least expected by those officials, if I may say so. After that, every little incident was going the opposition’s direction. Whether it was a TS Galaxy player who would had been fouled, it didn’t matter, it went the other way,” lamented Sukazi – a view that must be worrying to be held by a club boss towards match officials.

“You end up being helpless, more so if you’d write letters like we did last year, and there would not be courtesy of response, never mind any action being taken. Last year, we wrote a letter to the CEO of the league, I think, and we went as far as suggesting that, that match should be replayed. As I say, there was no courtesy of a response.”

“There are people who firmly believe … they phone me that there is a syndicate. Lots of people are involved. There are people who went as far as saying there is a team of referees that would either officiate for Real Kings consistently, or more often than others, and thereafter, if not, they officiate in matches (that involved Real Kings’ title contenders or competitors.) I don’t know. I don’t know the names of the referees. I don’t care to know them. So, I don’t follow these things. But things are being said. They gave me one linesman, Ramutsindela (Kamohelo). And then I phoned my GM today and said, ‘Give me the list of the officials we have for the Royal Eagles game,’ leading to our game last week. I find Ramutsindela. So you end thinking geez, my goodness, this could be true or what, because people are making all these speculations.”

These are fresh, but not new, allegations.

In April 2019, TS Galaxy head coach Dan “Dance” Malesela, reacting to his club’s controversial 1-0 loss at home to Royal Eagles at the Kameelrivier Stadium in Mpumalanga, was equally scathing in his analyses of what is taking place in the league. Eagles were awarded a dubious penalty by the referee Olani Kwinda, but he still turned down what appeared two legitimate penalty calls for the home side.

The win took the KwaZulu-Natal club to within two points behind log leaders Stellenbosch FC with only three games to go in this campaign.

A few weeks earlier, SABC Sport had run a story about NFD clubs complaining about the number of penalties that were being awarded to Eagles in what was alleged to be a plan to help them gain promotion to the Premier Soccer League come end of the season.

SAFA Head of Referees, Tenda Masikwa responded by saying no clubs had complained to them, something which was disputed by some NFD clubs. Kwinda and one of his assistants, Kamohelo Ramutsindela – one of the names firmly at the centre of this saga – had been in charge of three other matches where the KZN side were awarded penalties.

Malesela was fuming.

“I feel for the future of South African football. You know, if things are going to happen this way … it’s more like ‘by hoot or crook, you know, this must happen!’ We don’t even appreciate the football that is played.  We don’t appreciate good things, you know. That’s why I am saying I feel for our future, because you find some of these boys from TS Galaxy, are going to be lost from football, because they get disgruntled with what is happening here. So, I don’t want to say too much. If anybody can get a video of this match and look, some people would be embarrassed … seriously embarrassed. This (bad refereeing) is bad for football. This is the worst I have ever seen ever since I was in football. It is the worst. I never comment about other things than football. You know, I want to talk about football. But every time, you are forced to comment about other things that have nothing to do with how your team is playing, which is a shame, because I like focusing on my team and what my team can do. But if things are done in such a way that it becomes difficult for my team to even move, then I have a problem with that. We put a lot of effort in this. We work hard. You know, to prepare a team to play like this is not easy, hey. It’s not easy. Everybody here must work hard. If you can’t do the job, leave it.”

So, SAFA says heads must roll and the questions persist, whose head? Like when? To what end?

Ever heard of the Motimele and Pickard Commissions of Inquiry set up to probe allegations corruption in football? What happened to the findings thereof? Why were the findings never made public? We’ll answer these questions but therein lays the answer to why all these allegations will mean nothing because SAFA’s response earlier this is nothing more than just a bluff.

What about the much-publicised Operation Dribble back in 2004, which ended up dribbling all of us? What came of it?

The Semenya Commission of Inquiry in 2010, which was set up to investigate the allegations of match fixing in the PSL and First Division since 2003.

What about the claims former referee and PSL Manager, Andile ‘Ace’ Ncobo’s  that he had “a dossier” that implicated some of the Premiership clubs and officials in the bribery scandal? By the way, Ncobo refused to take part in the Semenya Commission of Inquiry saying, “I’m not going to contribute to a Commission whose results will be left to gather dust at their offices.”

What about Pitso Mosimane’s well-documented outbursts about the standard of refereeing. Other than seeking to silence him with fines, has anybody cared to pay deeper attention to the claims, or the game cannot ‘afford’ that?

Incompetence is one thing but lack of integrity, working towards a corrupt outcome is another and if you look at the referees’ mistakes that take place in the NFD it is not difficult to notice somebody doesn’t care who’s watching anymore, they will manipulate results as they see fit. That’s evident.

Commissions have been set up and investigations carried out. The extent of corruption is known. The culprits are known … maybe not by everyone, but by those who have had access to the real outcomes of these commissions. Yet, no one has accounted!

And that is the scary part.

This tells of the depth of refereeing corruption in the NFD and beyond this league. This tells of the power and positions that are held by those found to have been implicated in all of this criminality that SAFA is talking about. They are big, they are untouchable, they make the laws, they run the game and other institutions, and they are quite honestly, the game themselves and without them there is no game. There are no arrests because you can’t arrest the game.

A caller, John The Whistle Blower @bibo_tso, mentioned, on Robert Marawa’s show on Metro FM and Radio 2000 some, powerful names and you could listen to the podcast below for those names. But these people, together with more who could be involved, are not just ordinary people. These people are the game. You can’t tamper with the game.

We are supposed to believe SAFA when they say they are taking the allegations of match-fixing, bribery and corruption in the Glad Africa Championship very seriously and they would be involving the South African Police Service (SAPS) to take this further?

NO! They are bluffing!

Not only are these allegations not new, but people have been fingered which has brought their credibility into serious question and has also brought the local football into disrepute. The league must continue, but with these fingered individuals still involved? SAFA and the PSL do not need a docket with the SAPS to suspend people and carry out their own investigations to restore credibility in the game and be seen to be taking this matter seriously. Why are they not moving on these people? Is it because more high-profile individuals are involved which would bring down the game itself, because these people are indeed the game?

But SAFA needs to be reminded in their so-called fight against corruption, without people getting arrested; there is no reason why corruption in this division and any other division should not happen. The ground is fertile and there no consequences. Why should they not make extra money on the side? SAFA are in charge of the game but they should be reminded they are not there to rely on the conscience of the referees and everyone involved to act righteously. They are there to take charge, lest we see them as being, directly or indirectly, party to this syndicate.

Where there is smoke … not this is no smoke; these are real-time flames. You still want to argue there is no fire. Take us seriously!

– By Sipho ‘King K’ Kekana – SABC Digital News Senior Producer and Sports Analyst, @KingKAzania

Watch below some of the questionable decisions by referees in the Glad Africa Championship: