SA Football Association (Safa) vice-president Ria Ledwaba was supposed to launch her presidential elections candidature but the highly-anticipated occasion was marred by controversy.
Ledwaba, a veteran football administrator, could not attend the function held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg after her lawyers revealed that she had been threatened with suspension or expulsion if she addressed the function.
At the start of the gathering, MC Faith Mangope told the audience that Ledwaba was running late and would join the proceedings later. But there were gasps of air from the gallery when during the speeches, Mangope and Ledwaba’s lawyer Leruma Thobejane announced that the former Ria Stars owner was no longer coming after being threatened by the association.
“I did not want to risk Mama Ria’s candidacy by allowing her to come and address the people here,” said Thobejane.
“We want her to be able to continue with the elections because we don’t want her to miss out by being suspended or expelled. We received a circular on Friday which was to prohibit her from holding any press conference.
“We engaged and consulted until late at night and I don’t advise my client if I don’t believe I am going to win the case. I pick my fights. We went through the circular and as a lawyer, my advice was that we seek further clarity,” added Thobejane.
Former Safa employees and national team’s players Dennis Mumble and Portia Modise (Banyana Banyana), Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, and Doctor “16 Valve” Khumalo attended the function.
Mumble, a former Safa CEO, criticised his former bosses when he spoke: “It is shocking to see what has happened. I was hoping to see Ria walk into the hall and to listen to her speak to us. We are seeing an election campaign with no rules or with rules that are being changed as we go along.
“In a soccer match, you know about the rules before you get onto the field, but here we have people changing the constitution every day and disqualifying people who are a threat. And then they say their constitution is aligned with the Fifa statutes. It is not acceptable.”
Retired Banyana stalwart Modise was more scathing: “It is time for change. They did not care for us [girl’s teams] when we were still playing. Safa did not even give us tracksuits and training material. Sometimes we would even share running tights and gym bras, imagine that.
“I scored so many goals for the association, but I still had nothing. After matches, I would go to the Noord taxi rank and catch a taxi home and was staying in a shack. Ledwaba was always there and she treated us like a mother, it’s the right time that we bring the right people to run football in this country.”
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