South African minister – $10m was not a bribe

A leading South African minister has denied allegations that the country’s government paid a bribe to Jack Warner via Fifa in order to help gain hosting rights for the 2010 World Cup.

A letter emerged on Tuesday in which the South African Football Association (SAFA) asked Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke to withhold $10 million from the World Cup Organising Committee budget and forward the same payment to the indicted former Concacaf chief.

The letter implicated Valcke, who Fifa had earlier claimed to have no knowledge of the payment, in an ongoing US Department of Justice (DoJ) investigation into improprieties within the world game. Fifa president Sepp Blatter resigned his post hours later.

But the minister of sport and recreation, Fikile Mbalula has hit out at claims his nation was involved in vote-buying, insisting that the $10m payment was entirely legitimate.

“The fact that a payment of $10m was made to an approved programme above board does not equate to bribery,” he told a press conference on Wednesday. “Those who make claims should prove their allegations.

“We would like to categorically deny that we bribed anyone to secure the rights for the 2010 World Cup.”

The letter asks Fifa to direct funds to Warner, then president of Concacaf, for the Diaspora Legacy Programme. However doubts have been raised regarding the legitimacy of the programme, with the DoJ investigating the paper trail related to the payment.

“We have not yet heard back from the US authorities and have asked them to contact us,” added Mbalula. “We refuse to get caught up in a battle between the US authorities and Fifa. Fifa must speak for Fifa.

“The president asked me to convene this conference and to convey to you, that we must explain that the money was transferred. I promised the people of South Africa I would report on match-fixing. I don’t know if I will ever get this report from Fifa.

“We fight corruption and we want clean sport. You must never doubt us in terms of cleaning football.”