‘We’re disappointed Zakhele is not at Afcon, but not upset’

The SA Football Association‘s (Safa) head of department for referees Abdul Ebrahim says not having seasoned match official Zakhele Siwela at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is disappointing but not an upset.

This after Siwela was omitted from the shortlist of 33 assistant referees, meaning that Abongile Tom is the only on-field match official representing South Africa.

Female referee Akhona Makalima is also in Ivory Coast flying the South African flag high from the video assistant referee (VAR) booth.

Makalima’s appointment important

Speaking to Sunday World at the weekend, Ebrahim said the association is disappointed that Siwela did not make the cut.

However, he said they are not upset because having Makalima as the VAR official is more important for the country.

“As an association, we are obviously disappointed to not have Zakhele at the Afcon, but we are not upset,” Ebrahim said.

“What is more important for us is the appointment of Makalima as a VAR official. Having her representing us is massive, considering that she comes from a league [DStv Premiership] that does not have the VAR.

“So, that is a huge achievement for us as a country. We obviously can’t overlook the fact that we still have a lot to improve on as far as our match officiating is concerned.”

CAF voting system

Ebrahim heaped praise on Siwela’s decorated career, saying it would be interesting to find out how the Confederation of African Football (CAF) arrived at a decision to leave a match official of Siwela’s calibre out of the biggest competition on the continent.

“I am sure CAF has got a voting system that they used to select the officials that they selected,” he added.

“But I am interested to know and looking forward to seeing how they got down to that decision [to leave out Siwela].

“Take nothing away from Zakhele, he has a prestigious career having represented us at the highest level in the World Cup, and was officiating alongside Victor Gomes at the previous Afcon final [in 2021].”


Tom officially refereed his first ever Afcon game between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.

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