South African activists call for Tokyo Sexwale to resign from FIFA

Ahead of tomorrow’s FIFA Council meeting taking place in India, South African activists belonging to various civil society and faith based organizations have issued a call demanding that Tokyo Sexwale resigns from FIFA. Sexwale is the head of FIFA’s Israel Palestine Monitoring Committee. In their call, the activists state:


“FIFA has delayed in taking action against the Israel Football Association and its violation of FIFA statues. Instead of acting, FIFA has continuously delayed and Sexwale is part of this delaying process. Sexwale and the FIFA Israel Palestine Monitoring Committee was meant to deliver justice, instead, it is delaying justice.” Click here for the full statement with an updated list of signatories.

The call has been issued by an initial group of signatories including the South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP), the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa and the Christian ecumenical group, Kairos Southern Africa. The statement is also backed by Benoni Spurs Football Club, various student groups and the National Coalition 4 Palestine (NC4P), an umbrella body of over 40 South African organizations.


FIFA had previously expelled Apartheid South Africa in 1961 over its policies. For over two years now the Palestinian Football Association, Human Rights Watch, lawmakers, European Parliamentarians, the UN Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace and thousands of football players, fans and activists have been urging FIFA to follow its own rules and ensure that football teams based in illegal Israeli settlements are excluded from the Israeli Football Association. The red card Israel campaign has asked FIFA to suspend the Israeli Football Association (IFA) because of its refusal to comply with FIFA rules. Pressure is mounting but FIFA is delaying and failing to act (click here for an infographic on FIFA’s delay tactics). Activists did meet with Sexwale once in 2016 but since then he has refused to answer emails and letters.


Palestinians have long been complaining to FIFA about Israeli attacks against Palestinian players including arrests and torture of Palestinian athletes, denial of freedom of movement, and bombing of their football stadiums. This is in addition to Israel’s routine (and still ongoing) disruption of Palestinian efforts to import necessary football equipment. Racism is rampant in Israeli football with Israel even having segregated youth leagues that separate Jewish players from non-Jewish players. Violent anti-Palestinian racism is common with Israeli clubs and fans notoriously chanting “Death to the Arabs” at soccer matches.


According to media reports, in a recent pre-recorded video at an event in Cape Town, Tokyo Sexwale reduced Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine to a disagreement between Jews and Muslims (in complete disregard, for example, of the indigenous Palestinian Christians and the larger question of Palestinian self determination in the face of Israel’s illegal occupation). Secondly, ignoring, in the first place, the unlawfulness of Israeli checkpoints, Sexwale made an absurd suggestion that Israeli military actions at these checkpoints (which routinely include prevention of movement and the killing of Palestinians) are “mistakes.”