JOHANNESBURG - South Africa is reeling in the wake of a U.S. indictment that says officials bribed the world football organization FIFA to secure the 2010 World Cup. The country's sports ministry is denying it made any payments.
The insistent buzz of the now-famous vuvuzela was heard throughout the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
But South African officials have made little noise at all in response to the U.S. indictment that asserts, among other things, that South Africa bribed FIFA officials to host that historic tournament.
The charges by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch led to the arrests Wednesday of 14 FIFA officials and executives who are accused of collectively taking more than $150 million in bribes.
Lynch’s 164-page indictment outlines a scenario in which former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner sent an intermediary to Paris to collect a briefcase stuffed with dollars from a South African official. The indictment does not single out any South African by name.
When contacted by VOA seeking comment on the indictment, South African presidential spokesman Harold Maloka passed the ball to the Sports Ministry.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula says according to official records, no such payment came from the ministry or the government
“Our financial records and books for the 2010 and 11 financial years, and those before and after the period of the World Cup, have been audited by the Auditor General of South Africa and no such amount has been found on our books,” he said.
South Africa’s top opposition party has already turned the scandal into a political football.
The Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of sports is Solly Malatsi, who was quick to criticize the man who is widely thought to be at the center of these sideline deals, Danny Jordaan, the head of the local organizing committee for the 2010 World Cup.
“These startling allegations, they are serious allegations, which should be probed," he said. "They cannot be swept under the carpet. So what we will be doing as the official opposition is that today we have written a letter to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on sport and recreation, asking her to immediately summon SAFA under the leadership of Danny Jordaan to the portfolio committee to provide an explanation on these allegations."
Malatsi said the party believes a bribe to FIFA could not have been paid without the knowledge of senior officials on South Africa's bid committee.
Jordaan was recently named executive mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area by the ruling African National Congress. He was due to be endorsed Thursday. Calls to the mayor’s office went unanswered.
The revelations are especially disheartening to South Africans who thought that the first-ever World Cup on African soil was the product of so-called “Madiba Magic.” Madiba is the clan name used to describe former President Nelson Mandela, whose charismatic personality had a galvanizing effect on South African sports.
By the time the World Cup came to South Africa, Mandela was ill and virtually housebound, making one brief appearance at the tournament final.
A spokesman at the Nelson Mandela Foundation declined to comment on the indictment.