Johannesburg - The two-year battle for control of the eThekwini region of the SA Football Association (Safa) has taken another dramatic turn as one of the factions has rejected a recent arbitrator’s ruling for a rerun next month of the football governing body’s Durban elections.
The eThekwini regional executive committee that was elected last year, in a process overseen by Safa-appointed administrator Andile Ndengezi, has declared a dispute against the national body over a ruling by Safa arbitrator Advocate Hilton Epstein last month.
This ruling declared Ndengezi’s appointment unlawful.
Epstein had ordered that the conference that Ndengezi had overseen should be rerun, setting aside its election of an executive led by secretary-general Zama Buthelezi and chairperson Mazwi Mkhize.
This faction had ousted a leadership headed by Alpha Mchunu, who ran the region for 14 years.
However, Mchunu’s group has refused to vacate the office at Durban’s Hoy Park Recreation Club, while the rival faction that had worked out of the Moses Mabhida Stadium is now based at the Curries Fountain Sports Development Centre.
In his ruling, Epstein said the Mchunu group had erred by going ahead with a regional elective congress in 2014, defying the Safa national executive’s instructions.
However, the appointment of Ndengezi is also flawed, as is the regional conference he oversaw.
Noting that neither leadership had been legitimately elected, Epstein ruled that the Hoy Park group should, before December 3, convene a regional elective conference under the supervision of Safa’s legal and constitutional committee.
However, the Curries Fountain group, which has been running tournaments, coaching and refereeing clinics, and which oversaw the promotion of Ashley United to the ABC Motsepe League, has declared a dispute over the Epstein ruling.
In a letter of dispute to Safa CEO Dennis Mumble, Buthelezi said Epstein’s award was issued “without our input as we were not called to the arbitration.
“We regard this as unfair ... therefore we hereby declare a dispute against Safa in this regard, and we pray that the award should be suspended pending the finalisation of our dispute in terms of clause 58 of the Safa statutes.”
Buthelezi asked that the election be suspended pending the outcome of the dispute.
Mkhize, who is also a leader of the Football Transformation Forum, which has been backing Safa president Danny Jordaan, said they would not participate in the December election, as they had already lodged the dispute over the award.
“The Hoy Park group elected themselves with no provincial or national representatives. If we honour those elections, Safa will be at war with itself,” he said.
Mkhize questioned why the Hoy Park group took Safa to the high court, despite this being a violation of Fifa and Safa principles.
“Hoy Park defied Safa in 2014. Why were they not charged to date? This year, they went to court and instead they are entertained. No member will ever be charged for going to court. Floodgates have been opened,” he said.
Mkhize also claimed that the process has been dragged out in “a well-calculated move by certain individuals interested in the Safa 2018 elective congress”.
At this stage, it seems that Safa has again called on the Hoy Park group not to hold elections, but the faction said it would go ahead.
Mumble earlier this month ordered that the conference be postponed until the dispute was dealt with through “interaction” among all the parties who are involved. In a letter to Hoy Park, Mumble said the Safa dispute resolution committee had ruled that the conference should be halted until a resolution was found.
“The chairperson of the dispute resolution committee has issued an instruction for us to direct you to not call any further meetings until such time that he has studied the grounds for the declaration of the dispute and responded to it on an urgent basis,” Mumble said.
“We make a special note that this directive does not constitute an instruction to halt the arbitrator’s decision, but merely a brief postponement of any activities currently under way.”
However, the conference will go ahead, according to Eric Smith, spokesperson for Hoy Park.
“All I can confirm is that the preparations for the elections on December 3 are going ahead very smoothly under the supervision of the Safa legal and constitutional committee in line with the arbitrator’s award.
“We are still operating at Hoy Park. Football is still being played,” Smith said.
By the time of going to press, Safa spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi had not responded to calls and emailed questions from City Press.