Pretoria - Safa’s presidential candidate Ria Ledwaba says she is optimistic about winning the tightly-contested elections where she is challenging the incumbent Danny Jordaan who is seeking a third successive term as president of the South African Football Association, and third contestant Safa Tshwane president Ngwako Solly Mohlabeng.
Ledwaba spoke on Saturday night at a glitzy event held at the Just Cuban restaurant in Pretoria where the celebrated football administrator was hosted by civil rights group #NotInMyName, which has been supporting her campaign to the Safa top post.
“I am really humbled to see each and every one here this evening. It is going to be a very tough journey, but I know that David killed Goliath with a slingshot and I think that is what we are going to do,” said Ledwaba during a conversation including #NotInMyName president Siyabulela Jentile and secretary-general Themba Masango.
However, the former Ria Stars owner said the upcoming elections, set for June 25 “can never be free and fair”.
“I am glad we are gathered here today. It’s going to be a tough road. We are in court, in the High Court in Pretoria, on Tuesday because we know this election can never be free and fair with all the violations of the statues in amending them,” she said.
“I know South Africans are not voting [in the Safa elections] but I know your voices can be louder than those votes. I know that while you are not voting, I know that the South African Football Association belongs to all South Africans and I think we need to rise for South African football so we can be able to go to stadiums and enjoy football.”
Ledwaba has repeatedly alleged irregularities in amendments made to the constitution at a March 26 Safa congress, which she argues were conceived to favour Jordaan.
Among her plans, if she ascends the converted post, Ledwaba said she will seek to thwart the football supporters’ current apathy and ensure they return to stadiums as they used to do.
“We are going to change the situation in South Africa. We are going to start coming to the games. You will not have a choice. When we take over, we are going to ensure those stadiums will be filled better than what we saw in Morocco,” said the Safa vice-president.
Mohlabeng, who also joined Ledwaba at the Pretoria gathering, said South African football must be rescued.
“What is important is that we need to go and rescue our football. We need to make sure that our football comes back to the communities. It has individualised, personalised and made to be something else that we don’t know. People are demonised and made to be something else – that we cannot allow,” he said.
“As some of you might know, I was chased out of the congress because you are not allowed to say anything. I think once the community and society stand up and says we need this change, and when that change happens, definitely the leadership will rise.”
He said currently, football in South Africa has been reduced to issues of “stomachs than thinking about the future of the children”.
#NotInMyName has had run-ins with Jordaan, following widely-reported allegations of rape against him reported by former ANC MP Jennifer Ferguson.
In 2017, Ferguson alleged that Jordaan raped her at a Nelson Mandela Bay hotel room 25 years ago. In 2018, she laid a charge of rape against Jordaan at Johannesburg's Parkview police station.
Jordaan, a former mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, has denied that the incident happened and has insisted he is innocent. In 2017, he denied Ferguson's offer of mediation between the two, saying it ran the risk of the public perceiving '“that there is a cover up away from the glare of public scrutiny“.
Last month, the Economic Freedom Fighters made it known they are supporting Ledwaba in the race for the Safa presidency.