When it comes to accountability, you can either be a Judge Nkola Motata or Jackson Mthembu. The problem though with the leadership of South African football is that there are too many “Motatas” and very few “Mthembus”.
Let me explain. Firstly let’s start with why I brought these gentlemen up. Motata and Mthembu were both found guilty of drunk-driving, but how they handled their cases sets them apart from one another.
Mthembu was found guilty of drunk-driving and was more than three times over the legal driving limit and was slapped with a R12000 fine, half of which was conditionally suspended for a year.
The ANC chief whip pleaded guilty to the charge, co-operated with the police at the scene, owned-up to his mistake, apologised and took the punishment on the chin. The whole case was quickly wrapped up because he was accountable for his crime.
Motata’s case on the other hand dragged for years despite there being pictures and audio evidence of him slurring his words after he crashed his Jaguar into a wall of a Hurlingham property in Johannesburg.
Motata’s reputation was dragged through the mud in a case that gave different meaning to “sober as a judge” after he insisted that he only had tea before admitting he had a bottle of wine with a colleague before the crash. He was found guilty, and had to choose between either paying a R20000 fine or spending a year in prison.
Motata is constantly referenced as the “drunk-driving judge” because he chose to fight a losing course - flexing his legal muscles, which he has a right to do - instead of coming clean and being accountable for what he did wrong.
I thought of Motata and Mthembu after reading about Stadium Management chief executive Jacques Grobbelaar suing Power FM’s Thabiso Mosia for defamation. Grobbelaar and his legal team argue that Mosia was “aggressive and antagonising” in an interview he did with the CEO following the death of two people at FNB Stadium in the Carling Black Label Cup in July. All I heard from that interview was a journalist holding an administrator accountable after two lives were lost and many injured in an incident that exposed shortcomings in the security.
I remember how Grobbelaar, the sponsors, Johannesburg Metro Police and a government official caucused for what felt like forever at the FNB Stadium auditorium before addressing the media on the day of that incident. Grobbelaar read a statement and we were told they would not be taking any questions. We had to insist on asking questions as the statement didn’t fully address everything, like "Why did the game continue after the deaths?" as the news was confirmed early into the match and if a risk assessment was done with the sold-out stadium that’s a nightmare to access in big events, half-empty minutes before kick-off.
Almost three months later, no one has been held accountable for those deaths. The Premier Soccer League (PSL) announced last month that the inquiry into the events at the match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates had been discontinued in light of the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Thulas Nxesi, instituting a ministerial committee of inquiry. Perhaps that committee will hold those in the wrong accountable, but I am not holding my breath.
Lack of accountability has become something of a culture in the country in almost every sphere. Instead of leaders being accountable, they threaten those who have a duty to hold them liable for their shortcomings. The sad part about this incident at FNB Stadium is that it reflects badly on the treatment of the No. 1 stakeholders in football, the fans. It should be a matter of national importance and handled diligently because without fans sport is nothing.
But then again we are still waiting on action to be taken on the fans who ran amok last season at Loftus Versfeld in Mamelodi Sundowns’ 6-0 drubbing of Orlando Pirates. That incident is one of three that happened last season and no action was taken. The other two involved clashes between Pirates and Bloemfontein Celtic fans at Orlando Stadium, and Celtic fans allegedly going on a rampage after a loss to Wits at Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium.
Owning up when you erred is not only a sign of leadership but also the first step to improving on the mistakes you made. Some of the problems we have in our game are due to the refusal to own up and learn from our shortcomings.