The entrance of Patrice Motsepe in the CAF presidential race will test loyalties within regional block, COSAFA.
South Africa’s Motsepe will challenge incumbent, Ahmad Ahmad from Madagascar, in a contest that pits candidates from the same region.
In 2016, COSAFA voted as a bloc, which saw Ahmad sweep into power, ousting long serving Issa Hayatou of Cameroon. But the tide is fast changing with Motsepe’s decision to contest, throwing the region into a dilemma.
When South Africa announced Motsepe was standing against Ahmad, Botswana was the first COSAFA member to declare allegiance. Zimbabwe has also come out in support of Motsepe, dumping Ahmad.
Nigeria and Sierra Leone are other countries that have made public their support for the South African billionaire. Eight countries were not part of a letter of support for Ahmad earlier this month, and are believed to back Motsepe. Algeria, Ivory Coast, Uganda and South Africa, joined Botswana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, in refusing to append their signature in a letter of support for Ahmad.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, Maclean Letshwiti, in an interview with Mmegi Sport last week, said they had decided to back Motsepe due to his credentials. “It is about his impeccable credentials as a businessperson that maybe, we can change the quality and prosperity of African football. It is for this reason that we put it before our NEC to give support to Motsepe,” Letshwiti said.
He said COSAFA had not taken a stand on which candidate to back between Motsepe and Ahmad but hoped the region would support the South African.
Letshwiti was at the forefront of the Ahmad campaign four years ago, but loyalties have sharply changed.
COSAFA president, Phillip Chiyangwa, who is Ahmad’s campaign manager, is quoted as saying they have managed to secure 48 votes for the Malagasy out of the 54 voting nations. “The COSAFA region that I lead has responded overwhelmingly to his (Ahmad) candidature except for the three Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe,” Chiyangwa told the media in his home country.
But Chiyangwa refused to field questions from Mmegi Sport, on the region’s preferred candidate. Instead, he referred the publication to COSAFA general secretary, Sue Destombes who had not responded to Mmegi Sport enquiries at press time. “Ask the GS (general secretary). Ask the (BFA) FA president (Letshwiti) to assist you,” was Chiyangwa’s curt response. Motsepe and Ahmad are not the only candidates vying for CAF’s top post, as they are joined by Senegal’s Augustin Senghor, Jacques Anouma from Ivory Coast and Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania. CAF goes to the polls next March.