Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya looks at the case against Danny Jordaan, president of the South African Football Association. He says that what is at stake is how seriously the football association takes the crime of rape and by extension, all other issues around gender justice. He argues that Jordaan and the South African Football Association must now take a step back and acknowledge that the charge is too serious for it to be business as usual.
The general consensus is that you can judge a man by the company he keeps. In some instances however, you can judge a company by the calibre of men it keeps. Take the South African Football Association (Safa), for example.
Its president Danny Jordaan stands accused of rape. The organisation’s leadership, the national executive committee, has decided that it will support him as he faces this personal and legal challenge.
To recap, musician and former ANC Member of Parliament, Jennifer Ferguson, opened a case of rape against Jordaan last month. She claims that the Safa president raped her in a hotel room in Port Elizabeth 24 years ago. Jordaan denies the charge.
Ferguson first came out with her allegation in a Facebook post last October. At the time she said she had been inspired by the #MeToo movement of women, focused mainly on the US television and film industry, outing men who had made unwanted sexual advances or committed sexual attacks against them.
Ferguson has repeatedly said her “initial intent had been to settle this matter outside of the process of legal prosecution”, where the two of them would meet face-to-face in a mediation process. She said she laid charges as a last resort when Jordaan chose not to avail himself for the process.
Ferguson said in a statement: “I offered Mr Jordaan the opportunity to engage with me in a mediative process outside of formal legal action. This offer sought to be consistent of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process.
“This TRC process acknowledged the common humanity and need for healing of both the victim and the perpetrator, and a place where one’s mutual humanity can be revived. Despite this offer, he chose not to engage with me and denied the allegation through a media statement … This decision has come out after many months of discussions, legal advice and deep personal consideration.”
It is not hard to see why Jordaan chose not to avail himself for this alternative manner of restoring relations between the two. Once the case was in the public domain, anything other than Ferguson saying she had been wrong, mistaken or untruthful, would not have made the case against Jordaan go away.
In fairness to Jordaan, Ferguson’s remark – “he chose not to engage with me and denied the allegation through a media statement” – seems to ignore the fact that she was the first to take the matter to social media (Facebook). This meant that the media became the chosen space for communicating the allegations and the denials.
It is natural for those who know an individual at a personal level or have close enough relations with such a person, to assume his innocence. It is also easy for those who do not know him, or who bear an unrelated grudge, to assume guilt.
It is therefore understandable that the Safa leadership would choose to err on the side of the innocence of the man they know.
Understandable should however not be confused with tolerable.
Unfortunately, this is not about feelings. It is not about personal egos either. It is also not only about the guilt or innocence of the accused.
Stepping down would not be an admission of guilt but, rather, an acknowledgment that the accusation dents the image of more than just Jordaan. It dents the organisation and the sponsors who pump millions of rands into the association. It dents football.
With football being the most supported sport in South Africa, it is essential that the sport’s governing body is at the forefront fighting against one of the most egregious violations against women.
There is no conflict or contradiction, in my opinion, between stepping down for the duration of the trial and supporting Jordaan during the trial.
Millions of families are found in courtrooms everyday supporting loved ones accused of all sorts of crimes. Their support does not and should not be translated into condoning the actions.
What is at stake here is what the organisation makes of the seriousness of the charges against Jordaan. It is about how seriously the football association takes the crime of rape and by extension, all other issues around gender justice.
Jordaan and Safa must now take a step back and acknowledge that the charge against him is too serious for it to be business as usual.
Every day Jordaan stays on as president of Safa is one more day that the culture of accountability and of leaders being beyond reproach is eroded.