The US, Mexico and Canada today won their joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup, beating Morocco by 134 votes to 65.
One of the countries that voted for the North American countries, instead of the North African nation, is South Africa.
Some people took to social media to protest what they see as a betrayal of Pan-African values. They believe it was expected that African countries would support each other, but a look into the politics underlying the situation suggests that there are solid reasons why SA, as well as other Cosafa countries, would not want to see a successful Moroccan bid.
South African Football Association (Safa) spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi said the decision was simply taken on merit.
“[It] was taken after both Morocco and the US presented their bids and it was felt that the US bid ticked all the boxes. Safa simply went for the best bid.”
While vague on the politics behind the decision, Chimhavi hinted at ANC involvement, saying Safa “don’t work in isolation; we get direction from the government. If we ignore them, we are going to have trouble when it comes to bidding.”
But it seems past political affiliations and the Western Saharan battle for independence is a significant underlying motivator behind the decision of South Africa and other Southern African countries to back the American bid.
An official, who asked not to be named, said: “Politically, the ANC has always had links to the Sahrawi liberation struggle in Western Sahara. During the struggle, parties such as the ANC, Frelimo and Zanu-PF were allies of the Polisario Front. You will notice that not just South Africa, but all the Cosafa nations refrained from voting for Morocco”.
The Polisario Front is a Sahrawi liberation organisation founded in 1976, which is engaged in an ongoing struggle for Western Saharan independence from Morocco, which has occupied the area since the seventies.
A statement from the ANC in March reaffirmed the party’s support for the Western Saharan liberation struggle.
“It is the only remaining colony in Africa,” it read, stating the ANC “condemns the withdrawal by Morocco from the UN-led peace process and supports UN efforts to bring both parties back to the negotiating table”.
One of the resolutions at the 54th ANC national conference reaffirmed the party’s commitment to “recall the historical fraternal relations between the ANC and the Polisario Front as allies”.