CAPE TOWN - The recent buying and selling of football clubs in South Africa has shaken the foundations of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and left fans with a bitter aftertaste.
It sounds a bit far-fetched, but the horse-trading that saw two franchises change hands in as many days prompted a commentator to raise suspicion that the acquisition of PSL teams could be linked to money laundering.
The local football landscape is not a playground for tycoons who need to buy football clubs to launder money, as has happened in England, for example. Tycoons launder ill-gotten gains (from criminal activities) to clean money (acquired legitimately).
Football does not require a buyer for a club to prove the source of their money, unlike when purchasing a property. As a result of money laundering activity in the past, property buyers adhere to FICA (Financial Intelligence Center Act). It provides proof of the origin of the funds.
The sales of the two clubs both happened against a backdrop of never-ending court cases involving First Division clubs and the PSL over two months.
Sekhukhune United were aggrieved that the PSL Disciplinary Committee did not award them the points from their match in which Polokwane City defaulted. The rule says the opposing team will receive a win by default and be awarded the points.
Why was there dereliction of duty since the disciplinary committee is staffed by capable people? It was not an oversight, surely?
Sekhukhune appealed the DC decision not to award them points in arbitration and won. As a result, they won the First Division title.
First to respond was Polokwane City, who resorted to court action to challenge the decision. The mind boggles because Polokwane, with its mid-table position, had absolutely nothing to gain from court action.
It raised suspicion that Polokwane was fronting for another party who was affected by points awarded to Sekhukhune.
Polokwane lost the case with costs and did not seek relief in another court.
Next, the PSL issue a bizarre statement to say the executive is not happy with the decision.
There is no legitimate reason for the executive's stance and again raises suspicion that a person or persons had an ulterior motive.
By this time, the ongoing saga raises more questions than answers.
Businesswoman and First Division club owner Shauwn 'MaMkhize' Mkhize is ecstatic with the PSL's stance. It makes the PSL look like an ally.
If Sekhukhune are denied the points, her club could win the league and gain automatic promotion to the Premiership.
Mkhize ropes in legal heavyweights, presumably at great costs. Instead of advising Mkhize that her case was without merit, they haul the matter through one court after the other.
A bitter fight to win automatic promotion ensues and reaches a point where Justice Leonie Windell of the Gauteng Division declares: 'Royal AM’s application is without merit and must be dismissed. The application is dismissed with costs.'
The PSL allowed Royal AM to persist with court actions even though its statutes, which like SAFA and FIFA, rule that arbitration verdicts are final and binding. Again, it raises the question of why did the PSL allow this? The NSL (National Soccer League) is the mother body of the NFD (National First Division) and PSL.
Royal AM is undeterred by Windell's verdict and approaches the Supreme Court.
The play-offs finally start, and Royal AM are outraged. They approach the court to say the PSL is in contempt of court. They also ask if the PSL are found guilty, Mato Madlala (acting CEO) must be jailed.
It was a staggering response to the start of the play-offs, more so because Royal AM's costs would be running into hundreds of thousands of Rands by this time. Does Royal AM have a bottomless pit of money?
The PSL are part of the saga at great cost, and we know the organisation is not flushed with funds because it recently acknowledged that it cannot afford VAR.
Royal AM showed the PSL the proverbial middle finger and decide on no-shows at the play-offs. Royal AM flipped the middle finger once before. On the final day of First Division fixtures, Royal AM awarded themselves a fake championship trophy and medals. Their celebrations and dancing are well documented and rank as the 'Mother of all Boasts.'
Later, Royal AM, while awaiting the outcome of their Supreme Court appeal, sell their franchise to Masala Mulaudzi, a former owner of Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM).
The NSL handbook says Mulaudzi cannot buy a franchise after selling TTM a few months earlier to Abram Sello. He is required to wait a year before he can purchase a franchise again. Presumably, the way around it is to nominate another person as the owner of TTM.
It's a ploy that worked wonderfully in England. The way out was to choose a nominee who would sign a 'Declaration of Trust' to say they hold shares for Mr X. This way, the identity of Mr X is concealed, and the FA will not know if they are dealing with a criminal or not.
PSL chairman Irvin Khoza, recently explained that there was nothing that could be done about the sale. Hence it was approved. TTM would now be campaigning in the First Division.
At around this time, unconfirmed media reports say Mulaudzi and Shauwn 'MaMkhize' Mkhize, the wealthy businesswoman and reality TV star are good friends. No one could guess why Mkhize would sell Royal AM and why Mulaudzi would buy a franchise that was liable for fines and even suspension.
In the words of Michael Ball, the English singer, it may have been a case of 'Love Changes Everything'.
The acquirer (Mulaudzi’s front) would have been advised that he would be responsible for claims that may exist, or which are brought against the club.
Subsequently, Royal AM was slapped with a R4 million fine, although much of it was suspended. Mulaudzi couldn't afford to run TTM and why would he buy a club that is facing hefty penalties?
Just before Mulaudzi's purchase, Sello decided to rename TTM with Marumo Gallants. Had Sello not done this there would be two franchises named TTM (one First Division and another Premiership). Was it a coincidence or was there orchestrated wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes?
The ink has hardly dried on the Royal AM sale, and Mkhize broke the news that she has bought Bloemfontein Celtic. Like Mulaudzi, she too cannot buy a franchise.
Officially, Celtic was sold to Nozipho Ngubo, the sister of Mkhize. Again, the PSL's hands were tied in the matter.
The football fraternity was shocked and outraged. One commentator let out an anguished cry: 'Chairman, we’ve got to stop this madness'.
The PSL were finally stung into action to explain the wheeling and dealing that led to horse-trading. The crestfallen figure of Khoza fronts the press conference. This time the 'Iron Duke' was devoid of the steely resolve that usually came to the fore in make-or-break situations.
Tarnished image or not, all summed up Khoza says, for better or for worse, the show must go on!