A week ago in the UNSC, South Africa voted against sanctions for Zimbabwe's leaders. The resolution was defeated with the help of China and Russia. The BBC described SA as a Zimbabwe ally pleased with the outcome. The result angered the US and England, the prime movers behind the resolution. In the balance was the marginalization of the Mugabe government which has used violence and intimidation resulting in the deaths of many opposition supporters to remain in power.
A more low key but equally important build up to the vote was taking place on the sidelines as Sepp Blatter through his surrogate, Jeroen Valcke expressed concern at the deterioriating conditions in Zimbabwe which could impact preparations for the 2010 World Cup. Blatter had previously reassured Danny Jordaan that only a natural catastrophe would be cause for the World Cup to be removed elsewhere but in a twist he also mentioned that there was a Plan B with three countries that could be counted on to host the Cup within a year. In his meeting with Jordaan, Valcke had this to say:
'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.
Valcke's statement can't be read as anything more than disappointment at Thabo Mbeki's quiet diplomacy which most Western observers reject as tacit support and ineffectual in changing Mugabe's behaviour. They are now rapidly advocating more interventionist tactics, like sanctions and military force.
It is clear that FIFA favours more pro-active tactics for solving the Zimbabwe problem. Even Danny Jordaan has voiced his frustration at Mbeki's go slow approach. Some observers conjecture that Mugabe is on his way out as Mbeki's powers wane and Jacob Zuma asserts control. SA's powerful trade unions are vehemently against Mugabe and a few months ago, the dock workers refused to unload a Chinese cargo ship carrying arms destined for Zimbabwe.
Sepp Blatter with the backing of Western Europe (the countries that fill FIFA's coffers with billions in TV and ad revenues) could use the World Cup as a carrot to force Mbeki to abandon Mugabe and force him off the stage, ultimately proving more effective than all the protests, sanctions, and threatened use of military intervention. A huge breach in SA's sovereignty but surely a small price to pay to keep the World Cup.
And how could he do this? FIFA, under Sepp Blatter is now a powerful potentate with many more member countries than the UN and which in the past, has had its way with Africa.
It employs thin skinned retaliatory tactics when dealing with African delegates or resorts to heavy handed suspensions of countries from international competitions for perceived political interference in their national associations. Even FIFA's support of country over club competitions is a capricious artifice when it comes to African players.
So who suspends FIFA for political interference? No one dare.