CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African soccer officials are being deliberately shielded from scrutiny over FIFA-related bribery allegations surrounding the country's successful 2010 World Cup bid, an opposition politician said Wednesday.
The Democratic Alliance opposition party also said sports minister Fikile Mbalula failed to attend a parliamentary committee meeting on Tuesday when he was supposed to answer questions on the allegations.
Following Mbalula's no-show, the DA said there were deliberate attempts by the ruling African National Congress to "delay accountability on this issue" and protect some of South Africa's most senior soccer officials.
"Is this really a responsible way to deal with the single biggest reputational crisis facing sport in our country?" the DA said in a statement.
South Africa's government has denied bribing FIFA officials to vote for the country to be awarded the 2010 World Cup. The United States Department of Justice said in indictment papers alleging widespread and long-running corruption in world soccer body FIFA that South Africa gave $10 million to corrupt FIFA executives in 2008 as payback for them backing it in the 2004 vote.
South Africa said it was a legitimate payment to former FIFA executive committee member Jack Warner for the sport's development in his country. Warner is one of 14 soccer and marketing executives under arrest and facing extradition to the U.S. on charges of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. Another former member of FIFA's ruling panel, American Chuck Blazer, admitted receiving bribes in the 2010 World Cup host contest.
In the days after the allegations against South Africa emerged, officials connected to the bid were ordered by the government to refrain from speaking publicly about the allegations.
But the DA wants those former bid officials to appear before parliament to answer the allegations. The DA specifically wants Danny Jordaan, the current South African Football Association president and former 2010 bid leader, and Molefi Oliphant, who was head of SAFA at the time of the World Cup bid, to go to parliament.
However, no soccer officials have appeared yet, and ruling party officials are "deliberately shielding Danny Jordaan and others from accounting for this matter," DA member of parliament Solly Malatsi told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Malatsi also said sports minister Mbalula had agreed to appear before parliament's sports committee on Tuesday but failed to do so, citing "other commitments," according to Malatsi.
Mbalula's spokesman didn't respond to requests for comment.