MY WORD ON SUNDAY: Sexwale took Africa for granted

SHARE   |   Monday, 08 February 2016   |   By Mpho Dibeela

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has dumped its own and chosen to go with Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa. South Africa’s freedom fighter businessman Tokyo Sexwale has been a very disappointing candidate. He had lifted his hand but not shown his head. In Africa, his own continent, barely any country has his manifesto or even contributed to its design. He failed miserably to brand his campaign for presidency an African one. At this stage it is only advisable that he saved what remains of his credibility by dropping out of the race altogether. He seemingly spent most of his time mourning the demise of previous leader of the game Sepp Blatter to go about rallying his own continent about his worth to lead. It appears he assumed that being the only African in the race for FIFA Presidency gave him a birth right to the continent’s 54 votes.

Thankfully Botswana was never overly excited about his candidature. The most critical and decent thing to do as a candidate is to feel out neighbours and friends particularly if one would need their blessings to succeed in any pursuit. It does not seem Sexwale ever bothered about approaching the Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership about his intentions even before announcing his candidature. I am happy that the Lords of Lekidi Centre were not tricked – they showed as much disinterest in him as he did to them. Most embarrassing for Sexwale is that even his countrymen found him unsellable. He had failed to move an inch in marketing himself even within his country and his national football association enough for them to market him elsewhere.

The Friday decision by CAF was preceded by South African Football Association’s (SAFA) admission that Sexwale had not demonstrated anything seriousness in his own candidature. They had secretly even called on him to withdraw from the race. As a safe saving measure they left the big decision to CAF. One assumes that this was to ensure that they kept reasonable harmonious relations with him. And one believes that they did very little to try and influence CAF’s decision in favour of Sexwale on Friday when they met in Kigali, Rwanda. How can they be expected to campaign for someone who has not shown any serious enthusiasm in his own campaign? It is possible that Sexwale was meeting most of the CAF delegates for the first time in Kigali. He has in this way not only embarrassed his own countrymen but the continent as well.

At issue is – if he can not sufficiently campaign within the continent how then has he done in other continents which have their own candidates for the post? He has most definitely hit a brick wall. In washing their hands off him, CAF is taking a stand not to attempt to take a candidate to FIFA whose credentials and seriousness they doubt. However, it is also quite possible that Sexwale strategy was to start in other continents before coming to his home continent where he believed his work would have been easier. If that is the case, he unfortunately miscalculated. One hopes that CAF’s decision to go with a Sheikh Salman is not tainted with any corrupt tendencies. I hope this is not a bought vote. I hope Botswana has not associated itself with yet another scheme that destroys the game than built.

FIFA has gone back to the polls for its leader in an attempt to rid itself of the cancer of corruption, nepotism and related ills. One would have wished that this cleaning up operation would have started at country, regional and continental level to remove individuals who have abetted and encouraged corruption. It is highly possible that some of the delegates that determined who CAF votes for have participated in corrupt activities before and could still have based their decisions on such tendencies. A fresh start for FIFA requires much more than what I see.