9 July 2008

Zimbabwe/South Africa: Fifa Raises Concerns About Political Crisis

The World Football governing body, FIFA, have finally voiced concern about the political turmoil in Zimbabwe and have issued a plea to South African President Thabo Mbeki to urgently resolve the crisis.

South Africa are hosting the 2010 World Cup finals but FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said on Wednesday that the crisis in Zimbabwe was adding to the long list of problems South Africa is facing in its preparation for football's greatest showpiece.

Valcke told a media briefing in Johannesburg that the situation in Zimbabwe had to be solved quickly.

'It would have been nice for South Africa, with all the other challenges they are facing, not to have the problem of Zimbabwe on top of it all. We add our voice to concerns and we fully support what is being done by all international organisations,' Valcke said.

Danny Jordaan, the chief executive officer of the South African organizing committee, was more critical of the regime in Zimbabwe when he said Robert Mugabe was resisting Mbeki's 'quiet diplomacy' as well as more vocal international criticism.

He added; 'Before we come to 2010, we must have a stable Zimbabwe. It's in all our interests.' Last week Fifa President Sepp Blatter confirmed the organisation does have a 'Plan B,' after concerns were raised about the explosive political situation next door to South Africa.

On Tuesday leaders of the world's eight richest nations gave Mbeki a fierce grilling over the crisis in Zimbabwe, saying his mediation efforts were not succeeding.

At what was described as a fiery meeting, US president George Bush, German chancellor Angela Merkel and the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, challenged Mbeki's dogged belief that his quiet diplomacy was working.

Basildon Peta, a Zimbabwean journalist based in South Africa, said FIFA's message was an implicit call to Mbeki to do something about Mugabe.

'Everyone I talk to here in South Africa is worried about the implications the crisis in Zimbabwe might have on the World Cup, but my gut feeling is Mugabe is on his way out - that by the time the finals begin, he would be history,' Peta said.

Expanding on this, Peta explained that Mbeki was also on his way out and a new South African president will take over next year April, meaning a change in foreign policy towards Zimbabwe.

'Once Jacob Zuma, as predicted, takes over as head of the state, I don't see Mugabe lasting if he's still the illegitimate president,' Peta said.

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