Sunday, 25 October 2015

SEXWALE FOR PRESIDENT! The man we call Tokyo is ready to give old friend Blatter the chop at FIFA

JUST GOOD FRIENDS: Sepp Blatter and Tokyo Sexwale

MOSIMA GABRIEL SEXWALE. They call him Tokyo because he loved karate as a kid. And everyone's asking WHO is this reclusive South African millionaire thrust back in to the spotlight by his willingness to stand for FIFA president on February 26?

What was it he said yesterday? "The brand of FIFA is seriously damaged following various scandals. It needs to be restored."

Brave sentiments. Now 62, Sexwale has never been involved in professional football as a player or administrator, but that shouldn’t rule him out of contention against a diverse list of people who have thrown their names into the hat to replace the currently suspended Sepp Blatter.

Described by the Guardian in the UK as “ an apartheid-era political prisoner turned multimillionaire mining tycoon”, Tokyo is listed only as FIFA’s “anti-racism” advisor. His latest mission was to sort out the "normalisation" of football in Palestine and Israel... he has played no public part in footballing or sporting administration in South Africa.

Sexwale (it’s NOT pronounced Sex Whale, for Westerners who can’t click it’s more like Sesh Waa Lay) didn’t have much time for sport as a young man, he was too busy (like many of his generation) fighting South Africa’s inhuman political philosophy Apartheid (pronounced Aparthate).

He’s a struggle hero in his home country, which comes with its own unique pressures. Most famously of all, he was jailed on Robben Island alongside the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela. When Aparthate fell in 1994, Tokyo became the first democratic Premier of Gauteng, the province which grew out of the old Transvaal, incorporating the huge metropolis of Johannesburg and Pretoria, the financial hub of the mining nation.

SMILE PLEASE: Blatter, Sexwale and Valcke with
Nelson Mandela during the World Cup in 2010
Politically, Sexwale was once headed for the presidency, but his attempts to unseat South Africa’s second democratic president Thabo Mbeki failed as Jacob Zuma slipped in to the hot-seat after the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007.

From 2009 to 2013, Tokyo was Minister of Human Settlements but his time in the ruling African National Congress came to an end when he chose once more to invest his energy in to mining rather than politics - an astute decision given the corruption allegations which have raged around Zuma’s reign

Sexwale was born in Orlando West, the son of a clerk at a local hospital. He left Orlando West High in 1973, just four years short of the Soweto Uprising which, infamously, saw school children shot by a minority Apartheid government still clinging to power.

A follower of Steve Biko’s black consciousness movement, he was a leader in the South African Student Movement before fleeing the country as so many struggle exiles did, to join Umkhonto we Sizwe, (“Spear of the Nation”) to fight the white minority government. He completed a Certificate in Business Studies during his time in Swaziland, a small independent nation almost entirely surrounded by South Africa.

He also spent time in the old Soviet Union, training with their military, specialising in engineering. But when Sexwale returned to South Africa, he was arrested and imprisoned for 18 years for terrorism and conspiracy to overthrow the National Party government.

During his 13 years on Robben Island - the “Alcatraz” off Cape Town which was reserved for freedom fighters - he studied for a B Com degree before his release in 1990 under the Groote Schuur Agreement. He is recognised as an expert in the African mining industry, particularly in the diamond sector.

Tokyo struck up a relationship with local para-legal Judy van Vuuren while he was behind bars - they married soon after he was released. The African National Congress beckoned and Sexwale took over the PWV province, previously Transvaal, now Gauteng, after the elections. In 1998 he left politics to forge a career as a businessman but he was drawn back when Mbeki was replaced by Zuma… only to leave again. That he is successful is beyond doubt. He is President of South Africa’s Russian and Japanese business forums and is Honorary Consul General of Finland.

But his football connections are marked mainly by a strong relationship with the now disgraced Sepp Blatter. Sexwale, through the build-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, was often pictured with Blatter and his side-kick Jerome Valcke, he was the hand-holder, the smiling face of Africa's first EVER World Cup.

Though Danny Jordaan, the SAFA president who now also doubles as the ANC’s Mayor of Port Elizabeth, has backed him for the FIFA job, neither have addressed the controversies which stir in the background. From his attempts to unseat Mbeki to his involvement in business deals in the north of the continent to his public rift with wife Judy, Sexwale is not quite the squeaky clean leader required by FIFA post-Blatter.

What was it Jordaan said when "approving" Sexwale's candidacy yesterday? "We've endorsed him unanimously because we are comfortable Tokyo's history, credibility, life experience will help resurrect the essential sport of the African continent, the ONLY sport played by all 54 nations on our continent"

Personally, I'd have gone for former Leeds United and Bafana Bafana icon Lucas Radebe if SAFA are going to back somebody for a top football job without an experience at SAFA. Radebe is squeaky-clean, he owns no $70m islands, he does not do business with questionable regimes up north.

Still, Tokyo's rivals for the hottest seat in football are hardly glowing paragons of virtue. Michel Platini, the former France midfielder, has the footballing credentials but is tainted by payments made to him by Blatter.

Another Frenchman, Jérôme Champagne, is former deputy general secretary of FIFA who has long dabbled in footballing politics while Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein is known only for his run against Blatter in May. A fourth candidate, David Nakhid, a former Trinidad & Tobago midfielder, is marked by his connections to Jack Warner’s controversial CONCACAF administration.

Sexwale says: "Issa Hayatou (the life-long CAF president and caretaker boss at FIFA until Blatter is unsuspended) has invited me to come to Cairo on October 28. I will put forward my proposals for reforms in FIFA. The mantle of president is heavy."

Still, with Liberia’s Musa Bility out of the running, Sexwale is sure to pull most, if not all, of Africa’s 54 votes, not bad in an electorate of 209.

And the German FA have gone public with their support. Platini is discredited and currently suspended, leaving many European nations looking for a mast to nail their colours too. Bahrain's Sheikh Salman Bing Al-Khalifa may enter the race too, the Asia Football Confederation president may attract European votes too despite human rights issues.

But Sexwale was in jail with Madiba. He has a great name. He's so rich, corruption may not be worth the bother. Why not Sexwale?

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