Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Investigative journalist Graeme Joffe will not stop exposing the corruption in South African sport

Posted on 8 September 2020 by Inam Yaphi

After the restricted release of his book Sport: Greed and Betrayal, Graeme Joffe is public enemy number one in South African sport. His crime? Spending the last decade chasing the real enemy responsible for the downfall of sport in South Africa, SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee).

The Sports Gazette caught up with the former CNN international sports anchor to talk about his book and how his research into the politics of South African sport has affected his relationships in editorial and board rooms.

Joffe became prominent on the South African airwaves on his radio show “The Rude Awakening” and admits that since his research began in 2012, it has been a long and lonely road. He has no regrets on the commotion he has created as his sole duty as a journalist is to report without fear or favour. 

“South African sport is in a real mess. This is stuff I knew was going to happen as it was happening when I started my investigation in,” he said. 

“When there is a lot of greed and administrators prioritise self-enrichment it’s sad. There’s no more money left for transformation, development and grassroots,”

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In his book, Joffe reveals information which he had acquired from many sources involved in South Africa sport. The information in the book also exposes the nepotism and corruption that allows the “bully boys” and the sports federations to keep a good relationship.

According to him, the book launching in South Africa was prevented by those he intended to expose. He ended up releasing it for free on a PDF to reveal his findings. 

“For me, it is not about making money. It’s about getting the truth out and making sure that there’s a better and fairer path for all South African sportsmen and women” said Joffe.  

Sports federations offering to pay for journalists to travel abroad to report on tours puts writers in a tough position. This compromises their ability criticise the same institution that had provided them with the opportunity to cover these events. Joffe has experienced this first hand. 

“When I started exposing the corrupt system, I became persona non grata. I wasn’t invited to events, I wasn’t getting any press releases and other federations have done that to other journalists”.

Big South African sporting moments are covered in a way which turns the blind eye on real issues. It is a temporary false sense of hope that delays the process to solve problems people face day-to-day. This is in sport and society.

A big part of this is to paint South African society as a nation that is united, this is partially true because we are only “united” when sports are involved. This is a tool the South African government uses to paper over the cracks.

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Even though there’s a select few, it’s important for sports journalists to become watchdogs and hold sporting bodies accountable to prevent the system from being a free-for-all for greedy administrators who prioritise self-enrichment ahead of athletes. 

In his book, he mentions the impact of minor sports and their involvement in the allocation of funds in South Africa. The “cinderella sports” have the ability to vote Olympic officials to sit on the board.

With the little money they bring in, they are promised more funds by board members, which they desperately need to survive. They are often bullied into submission in a catch 22 scenario. According to Joffe, this is where much of the corruption starts, with the National Lottery, an organization who are able to fund the sporting federations. 

Even though the lottery money is allocated to certain federations, the money is often lost and it doesn’t trickle down to those that need it most. 

Fixing these issues is important if SASCOC wants to turn South African sport into a force to be reckoned with at the Olympics.

“You can’t just put a facility and a multipurpose court in a township and say ‘yeah we are developing sport’. You have to develop programs and there have to be coaches on site. You need to be training them every day in that sport.” he says. 

We spoke about selection targets that are put in place in sporting codes to allow transformation. The hardest part of transformations is the funding required for athletes to go compete. In many instances, they are paying out of their own pocket to represent their country.

But first, there has to be a clear-out to rid the system of corruption all across the board. An Olympic cycle is four years, so it’s impossible to get the best of these athletes if you only sponsoring them for one month.

“We know what sport does for South Africa, it’s one of the biggest unifying factors, how it brings people together. The sad part is that there are so many corrupt sports administrators in South Africa. 

“If they not going to be exposed then they are not going to stop,” Joffe says in closing. 

It’s important that we find a way to cure the cancer.