Don’t take your eyes off the coronavirus pandemic and the precautionary measures. But there is a war brewing in local football, if information reaching SABC News is anything to go by.

Last year, former South African Football Association (SAFA) CEO, Dennis Mumble, inexplicably left the association and was replaced by Russel Paul in an acting capacity. He too left in November when he resigned and was replaced by SAFA vice-president, Gay Mokoena. But he too will be vacating the position at the end of March – if not already due to the nationwide lockdown , according to SAFA President, Danny Jordaan, after which a head-hunting process will be embarked on to find a permanent CEO.

“We said that Gay is finishing end of the month and through head-hunting, we’ll get a CEO,” said Jordaan speaking to SABC News.

On the surface, all these may seem normal but beneath the surface, it would seem a bit wormy.

Something doesn’t add up

While SAFA would want us to believe all is well and that Mumble left in peace, we have reliably learnt it might not be the case and that he left the association in a huff.

Jordaan has denied this.

“Dennis Mumble retired,” he says. “Our retirement age is 60. He was already 65.”

But Mumble denies he has retired.

“I have not retired. But I really would not like to get into this matter. I have no comment further.”

Confirmation of friction

Former SAFA Vice-President, Lucas Nhlapo says there has always been friction between Jordaan and Mumble and this could be the reason why Mumble eventually “disappeared.”

“Dennis and Danny have been at loggerheads about a lot of things. Although Dennis will not tell you, usually it would be issues of administration, that somebody is interfering,” says Nhlapo.

Nhlapo further accused Mumble of choosing flight over fight whenever he had differences with Jordaan.

“But remember, Dennis has been disappearing time and again. Every time he differed with the president on issues of administration, he would disappear.”

In the audio below, former SAFA Vice-President, Lucas Nhlapo confirms the friction between Dennis Mumble and Danny Jordaan:

Jordaan has laughed off suggestions that there was friction between him and Mumble and that he was running a parallel administration.

“It’s nonsense. How do you run a parallel administration? The matter is simple. There’s a requirement here. Good governance requires us to ask those people who are over 60 to retire. There is nothing you can do about age. I was the CEO of the World Cup. When I was 59, I told them at 60 I am gone. He’s not the first one. The first one to go was Screamer Tshabalala and he was the one to tell Screamer, ‘you are 60. Our retirement age is 60.’ We gave him another five years, until 65. He’s from my city (Port Elizabeth). Dennis comes from PE. I brought him here. I appointed him as my General Manager when I was appointed CEO at SAFA.”

In the video below, SAFA President Danny Jordaan explains the CEO saga at SAFA:

However, this is disputed by several high-ranking SAFA officials who would only speak on condition of anonymity.

“Not long after Danny was elected president, he stripped the CEO of powers to communicate with the NEC, and made it his responsibility. Danny also took over the responsibility to appoint heads of delegation for the national team’s trips,” reveals one source. “This obviously reduced Dennis’ relationship with council members to one in which they would only see him in NEC meetings or only hear from him when instructed to do so by the president. “

The president is said to have told Mumble he could not trust anyone with the association’s information, thereby imposing a blanket on communication between the CEO and members of the NEC.

“The subtext was he would control what information would reach the NEC and that nothing should go to them without his consent,” says a source.

Gloves off

It is understood a raft issues ranging from administration interference to financial mismanagement by Jordaan were at the centre of the conflict between the two soccer bosses and according to inside sources, these were issues that led to the departure of Mumble.

Mumble refused to admit to this, but while he seems to have gone under, it is understood he is not taking his departure from this without a fight. It is understood Mumble has compiled a damning report, titled: Confidential – Governance issues at SAFA.

“As far as I understand, this document has been taken to the Minister of Sports (Nathi Mthethwa) via his advisor, Walter Mokoena, but the problem is that since then Mokoena has suddenly become hard to get hold of, which raises a lot of questions as to what the reasons for that could be. This is very political. But CAF and FIFA are also in on this. It’s going to get ugly,” says a source, only willing to comment on condition of anonymity.

Mokoena agrees to having had a meeting with Mumble and to have heard about the document but denies ever receiving the “damning document” he is supposed to hand over to the minister.

“He claims that he has handed it (to me) but I don’t know. But I am saying that if he says he has he must share that document with you. He never gave me any document,” says Mokoena.

In the audio below, Walter Mokoena responds to claims that he has been handed a document to hand over to Sports Minister Nathi Mthwethwa:

The document, parts of which SABC News has seen, labels SAFA a “cult organisation led by a cult leader,” where anybody who goes against what Jordaan says is worked out of the organisation, accusing the former 2010 FIFA World Cup CEO of abuse of power.

“A prime example is that of the ostracising of South African football legend, Lucas Radebe, for sharing an opinion that perhaps it could be time for a change in the association,” lashes the document in part. “Mr. Radebe served on the SAFA Technical Committee for four years and was summarily removed because of his views that he would like to be president one day.”

Witchhunt and purging

Ahead of the 2009 SAFA election, a formation that promised to be bring change in local football emerged calling itself the Football Transformation Forum (FTF). It comprised Danny Jordaan, Dennis Mumble, Shoes Mazibuko, Mwelo Nonkonyane, Kirsten Nematandani, Lucas Nhlapo, among others. However, one by one, they fell off over the years and Mumble was, from this formation, the last to bite the dust, bar the last man standing, Danny Jordaan.

While sources claim this is one of the evidence of the power Jordaan wields and that you disagree with him at your own peril, Jordaan says the FTF was just an election campaign that lost its purpose after the elections.

“It was not a movement. It was a campaign. You know, there was a CR17 campaign to elect officials and then when the elections are over, it’s over. Because when there’s an election, you need a forum to discuss to say do we need this one or that one to be the president, this or that one to be the vice president? And one of the key things there is to say how we increase the number of women in football? How do we get a woman to be a vice president? Of course, these are not discussions you would have in the congress because in the congress the agenda is prescribed. And of course, we then decided to put it in the constitution. Of course, there are other people who argue against it to say ‘we can vote for a woman. Why must it be in the constitution? I said, ‘No, but you had 300 years to put a woman as a vice president and it never happened. No, we know, it’s gonna happen, to put in the constitution that a minimum of three.’ They fought all those things, but these are the things that you have to discuss and get support.”

But that was not the end of it…

The lead-up to the 2018 SAFA Presidential elections is said to have given rise to more witch-hunting and purging.

Part of the document that was leaked to SABC News claims that during the Presidential campaign, the president suspected that some of the NEC members had been supportive of a rival presidential candidate, Ace Ncobo. While Dennis Mumble denied this, he is accused of having been asked by the president to retrieve a telephone call list from the service provider, which determined that Lucas Nhlapo and Abel Rakoma had been in touch with the former SAFA Referee who had aspirations to lead SAFA, thereby making them moles to be rid of.

“They were summarily removed from the WhatsApp groups created by the president.”

The document claims scathingly that, “Communication with the NEC and the regions therefore became an act of self-preservation instead of enhancing governance. The champion of the Pickard Commission (Danny Jordaan) has now effectively regressed into a state where he is doing exactly as the commission described…” which was to be “over concerned to be promoting his own interest instead of those of the association,” as the Pickard Commission had described the late Stix Morewa in 1997.

The rape allegations and reputational damage

In 2017, singer-songwriter and political activist, Jennifer Fergusson, shocked the local football world when she accused Jordaan of having raped her 24 years before – a matter that brought the local game into serious public relations nightmare. While the matter has largely disappeared, the SAFA president is accused of having flouted the association’s finance protocol when he misused the association’s funds to defend himself against the allegations. It is said that Jordaan and Mumble came into a collision course early in 2018 when Mumble was introduced to “a Mr. Neethling” who was “a public relations practitioner brought in by the president” to assist him in the Jennifer Fergusson matter. According to our sources, Mumble, as the CEO, was “instructed” to sign a 12-month contract of close to R2 million which would be paid to the “PR company” for the provision of public relation services to the “association.”

At the heart of the disagreement between Mumble and Jordaan on the matter was, according to our sources, the fact that SAFA did not need the services of an outside PR company as it had its own Communications Department, the amount of money the association would have to pay to the PR Company, as well as the fact that the SAFA CEO felt the rape allegations against the president pertained to an era before Jordaan could be president of the associations and therefore, should have been handled by the president in his personal capacity without using the association’s funds.

It is said Mumble refused to sign this contract. However, a week later, the CEO was given a copy of the contract signed by the president himself, “despite him being the subject of the matter.”

“The sum of the total of the contract would have necessitated a tender process because it exceeded R250 000, the limit which the CEO could approve without a tender process. At R91 000 per month, the cost of the contract would amount to R109 million for the year and therefore, had to go out to tender,” says one of our sources. But this was not done!

Jordaan is also accused to unilaterally writing off a R450 million debt by Siyaya TV, which raises questions as to what the motivation for that could be and it is also said to be one of the reasons for the association’s financial issues.

In the video below, Dr. Danny Jordaan explains why millions owed by Siyaya TV were never paid to SAFA:

The damning document concludes, “It bears repeating here that the South African Football Association is in a treacherous position financially and administratively and is treading soft ground on good governance practices. The president’s betrayal of his (and the membership’s) transformation agenda has led the association down a path to a ruinous future in the short to medium term.

From the very onset, Dr. Jordaan sought to install himself as an Imperial President – contrary to the FIFA model he that he claimed to emulate – by taking control of the Secretariat through direct intervention and by manipulating SAFA’s constitution to centralise institutional power in the presidency. He established a parallel administration in his office by running programmes and communications directly from there.”

Accusations and denials have been part of the local game for years, and while what is true or not may be difficult to pick, one truth continues to stand the test of time, and that is these off-the-field issues have put paid to the development of the game and continue to do so, with very little hope in the future. They come and they go, but the one truth remains, football is suffering.

The recent failure by SAFA and the Premier Soccer League to speak in one voice in the face of a common enemy – the coronavirus – further highlights the divisions that exist in the local game. Who is right and who is wrong may be enticing to ask but it is not the question we should be asking. Until when is the local game supposed to continue to suffer? That is the question.

*Editorial Note: At the time the interview was done with Danny Jordaan the report quoted had not yet reached SABC News.

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