South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s intention to dispute for the presidency of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will provide an interesting run-up to the March 12 election. Until he announced his intention turned out to be that Ahmad Ahmad, the Malagasy who currently leads the organization, would be a shelter.
He has already received support from 46 of the 54 member states. Motsepe’s entry is likely to spark reconsideration.
The president of CAF has great powers, which include representing the continent at the highest committees for global football decision-making at the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA). He or she serves on the FIFA Board and as FIFA’s Executive Vice President. CAF presidents give direction for football on the continent. They have a term of four years and the highly sought-after position often draws support based on regional coalitions and language adjustments.
Currently there are three contestants besides Ahmad and Motsepe. They are Ivorian Jacques Anouma, a former member of FIFA’s executive committee; Augustin Senghor of Senegal; and Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania. Two others withdrew: Tarek Bouchamoui, Tunisia, was reportedly blocked by Tunisia’s football federation, and Nigeria’s Pinnick Amaju, who supports Motsepe.
The drama has only just begun. More can be expected before the election on March 12. Political adjustments and coalitions can be expected to change rapidly as the election approaches. The changes may also be influenced by alleged horse trading with positions and favors.
This particular election is clouded by the fact that Ahmad is being investigated. In addition, the organization stands at a crossroads after losing its main sponsor premier competitions.
The president-elect in March will face several important tasks. The most important thing is to sign a respected media contract for its continental competitions and restore trust in the organization.
Ahmad becomes president after a late coalition against the long-standing leadership of former president Issa Hayatou from Cameroon. Ahmad, who was elected president in March 2017, has been in office for four years. He has been a member of the CAF’s executive committee since 2013. But he experienced problems during his tenure. This includes accusations of improperness in a CAF equipment contract awarded to a company owned by a friend of his. PricewaterhouseCoopers also reportedly received unpaid expenses of $ 24 million.
It was also reported complaints of sexual harassment. Ahmad denied these allegations.
In the council chamber, there were definite decisions after a bad African final in the Champions League between Morocco’s Wydad and Tunisia’s Esperance, en a decision to withdraw a marketing contract with Largadere Sports and Entertainment without being a replacement marketer.
FIFA has investigated some of these issues and results awaited. FIFA too send his secretary general, Fatma Samoura, to rectify the finances.
These erroneous mistakes make it clear that Ahmad Ahmad will have challengers if he wants a second term. A former ally, Amaju has publicly announced support for Motsepe.
Ahmad is not a beginner in politics. He is vice-president of the senate of his country, and at CAF he dealt with opponents summarily and co-opted supporters. In support of CAF’s executive management, he recently demanded and received written support from 46 of the continent’s 54 associations for his second term.
Yet he is not sure of returning as president of CAF. FIFA’s investigation results are pending and could have serious consequences. This includes long-term or life banishment.
What’s more, his tenure has rubbed some members wrong. In July 2019, for example, Ahmad designed the removal of Nigeria’s Amaju Pinnick from the CAF Vice Presidency. Nigeria has now joined four other countries – Sierra Leone, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana – to declare support for Motsepe.
The other contenders
Ivory Coast and some of the French-speaking countries are likely to rally behind Anouma. This is not his first attempt to get this job. He tried in 2012 but was politically out-maneuvered by Hayatou. Hayatou introduced a rule banning non-voting members of the CAF board from serving for the presidency. This prevented Anouma from arguing.
The rule was eliminated under Ahmad and the door was opened for Anouma to represent his name.
Moths appear in a much stronger position than Anouma – at least at this early stage. Anouma is considered part of the old guard who swung during Hayatou’s long reign. Nevertheless, Motsepe still faces major obstacles. While his club, Mamelodi Sundowns, is an example of successful club ownership, it did not prove his skills in football administration.
As a mine manager, he clearly has the business background. But the CAF work requires political management rather than running affairs. The question is: would he be able to combine his business skills with politics?
Ahmad Yahya is an interesting option. At 44, he is a shipping magnate and heads the Soccer Federation of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Under his leadership, Mauritania played in the African Nations’ Championship as well as the more prestigious Africa Cup of Nations. These two achievements were quite unexpected for the country.
Off the field, he has built a modern headquarters for his federation and an academy, received a CAF award for excellence in leadership and received praise from FIFA as an example for African football.
Yet his candidacy could be considered early, and his ability to explore the thorny landscape of African football politics could be challenged.
Ahmad should still be considered the forerunner. To make him successful, his opponents will work together to support a single opposition candidate and go around the continent within a short period of time to have the chance to have a new CAF leader in March.
Chuka Onwumechili, Professor of Communication, Howard University