Ria Ledwaba confident in the overthrow of Danny Jordan

Astute football fans will not miss the irony that Ria Ledwaba, who is campaigning to oust Danny Jordan as president of the South African Football Association (Safa), once supported him. Some followers say that the governing body of the local game would be better off if someone new was in charge, as what difference does it make what Ledwaba could do if she could almost a decade as a high-ranking Safa official?

She has been vice president and member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) for the past few years, so why hasn’t she used her position to secure the success she now promises to achieve as president of Safa?

“I understand why you asked this,” Ledwaba says from deep inside the FNB stadium after a press conference announcing her presidential manifesto. “But I’ve been trying to do just that for years.”

She previously said, “As a reporter, when you have a story, you go to your editor and present it. If he refuses, you won’t write that your story was rejected, will you? It’s the same with Safa NEC. It’s an organizational structure where you put forward your ideas, and when you fail, you stick to your decisions. But I want to change this structure. We have to get to the point where we realize that the majority is not always right.”

Jordaan is essentially a one-man majority that defeated Ledwaba to the point where she had to seek legal redress. The football club veteran and former owner of the Rya Stars football club has sought to delay the June 25 presidential election as it seeks, among other things, to limit the presidential mandate to two terms, as outlined in the “preamble to Safa’s constitution.” . Jordan is running for a third term.

She says the elections will not be fair. “You must have free and fair elections. For me, we might even have elections in 2023.”

Ledwaba told the media that she would not be surprised if she was removed from office before the election given Safa’s pending case against her. But she remains steadfast: “Nobody ever bullies me. I will not worship anyone, but I will worship the statutes.

She was referring to the ban on making a public statement until her candidacy was confirmed. “I can’t just wake up and send out a circular just because I’m the president and ban the press conference. We need change. We need to transform from a troubled organization into a winning nation.”

Convincing presentation

Ledwaba says that she is capable of doing this for Safa. She listed several issues – from grassroots development and high school football to women’s football, national teams, finance and business, fans, match officials and management – that she plans to focus on to ensure South Africa wins again. Like most “politicians”, her presentation sounded convincing.

There was an elaborate plan to get “legends involved in football coaching schools”. And her reasoning that the association is struggling to attract commercial support because “backers don’t sponsor Safa but invest in leadership they believe in” made sense. She then spoke about the role she played in ensuring that the development of Banyana Banyana players was taken to a higher level by basing them in the High Performance Center at the University of Pretoria, from which a large number made it to overseas. clubs.

Ironically, it was her stance on Banyan a few years ago that made many feel that Ledwaba was “one of the guys” in Safa, and that for a man who claimed to be for women’s emancipation, she sounded like old men running the game. She then said that Banyana players need to look more feminine and dress differently on and off the field.

She giggles when I remind her of this. “I remember that some people didn’t like my opinion of what Banyana looked like. All I said was that I saw other female football players put on makeup to go on the field, and that there is nothing wrong with that. I felt that we could give the girls a proper women’s outfit instead of forcing them to wear a men’s outfit.

“I did not say that our girls should change who and what they are. All I wanted was for them to feel confident being women in the so-called man’s game without feeling like they had to act like men. Some girls were forced to change because of what they thought those on the team were like.

“But this intervention changed the face of Banyana because we had new role models like Amanda Dlamini who influenced other girls to learn that they can look like girls and still play football. But we still let the girls be themselves.”

High Level Activators

Ledwaba and NEC let Jordan be. She was among the Safa leaders who remained silent when Jordan was accused of rape. Instead of suggesting that he resign as president until the case is concluded, Ledwaba urged the public and the media to refrain from condemning Jordan and leave it up to the courts. So her position now, when she goes against the man she previously praised for giving women a chance to be a leader, is going against the grain.

She begs to disagree. “If Danny is honest, he will tell you that although I never had conflicts with him at the NEC, I used to tell him personally about things that I thought he made mistakes about. And in 99% of cases, he agreed with me only to do nothing later. I’ve told him many times, let’s have preliminary discussions where we can give him advice before the meetings.

“But it’s not true to say that I’ve always supported Danny. One thing I learn about this association is that you need to put everything in writing when you communicate, and I have many letters that I can share to show that I called for all these things, which I promise to do when I become president.”

She says her goal is not to overthrow Jordan. “I told the people who nominated me that I didn’t want to oppose this kind of leadership,” which mistreated her by removing her from the vice-presidential position. “But I have an obligation not to be afraid so that the next generation doesn’t have to fight the same fight that I did.”

She insisted that her fight was not against Jordan. You “have to have the balls” to fight Jordan, she said. “For me, it’s not about challenging Danny. He remains my president. I never considered it when I made the decision to get up.”

Confident in overthrow

Interestingly, Ledwaba went into detail about how she tried to tell Jordan that she was asked to run for president. “I told him when they approached me. I called him and he replied to my WhatsApp message and said that we would have a meeting. I even wrote him a letter saying that I would consult with the political leadership of the country. [the ANC, DA and EFF]. After that, I called him to ask for a meeting because I wanted to hear his opinion.”

Ledwaba said that Jordaan snapped at her in front of other NEC members at a meeting to appoint Bafana coach Hugo Broos. “This breaks my heart. I asked him when we would have the meeting I asked for and he lost it and yelled at me, “I’m not going to date you. You are not a candidate.” He pounded on the table.” She hinted that this set off the drama leading up to her consideration as a presidential candidate.

Between her fears of being removed from office and her pending court case to end the election, time will tell if Ledwaba makes it to the polls on June 25. Nevertheless, she has no doubt that if the elections take place, she will dethrone her former ally, who has now become a sworn enemy. “I have great support. That’s why there’s a lot of panic [in the opposition camp]”, she said during a press conference.

I later asked how she could be so sure of this support, given that Safa had banned her from campaigning until she was officially declared a candidate. “The circular banned us from public statements such as press conferences. But I could call and talk to the members and they support us. They also want change.”

Many support Ledwaba, who is Safa’s first female leader, and the change she promises to bring about, including football legends Mark Fish, Malombo Lechaba and Brian Baloyi, who attended the press conference. However, over the years, the reality has been that Jordan’s opponents in the Safa elections either fall flat (think Mandla Mazibuko) or don’t go to the polls like Ace Nkobo. But this could very well be a peculiar case of Ledwaba’s charm for the third time.

This article was first published New frame.