South African leaders 'oversaw $10 mn payment'

AFP , Friday 5 Jun 2015

South Africa
Fans hold up South Africa's flag before the opening game of the 2010 World Cup (Photo: Reuters)

Senior South African officials, including then President Thabo Mbeki, approved the $10 million payment that US authorities describe as a bribe to host the 2010 World Cup, local media reported Friday.

A US indictment last week said the cash was paid to former FIFA executive Jack Warner to secure the right to hold the tournament in 2010 -- one of a slew of recent allegations of corruption at football's world governing body.

But South Africa has rejected the accusation, saying the $10 million payment was an honest donation to support football among the "African diaspora" in the Caribbean.

"President Mbeki spoke with the leadership of the 2010 World Cup local organising committee," Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula told the Beeld newspaper when asked who made the decision to pay the $10 million.

"(It was) the government's idea."

The Mail and Guardian on Friday published a 2007 letter from World Cup bid chief Danny Jordaan to FIFA about South Africa's plan to donate funds to the "Diaspora legacy support programme".

Jordaan wrote that then foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is now chair of the African Union Commission, had advised that the money should paid from the government to the organising committee.

FIFA would then deduct the sum from the organising committee's budget and pay it straight to the "diaspora programme", Jordaan added.

The South African payment is central to the corruption scandal that forced FIFA president Sepp Blatter to announce his resignation amid revelations about years of bribery within football.

The "diaspora programme" was virtually unknown in South Africa, but in a 2011 interview Mbeki said that some funds had been given to develop soccer in the Caribbean, where Jack Warner was a senior FIFA executive.

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