How PR firm tried to spruce up Jordaan’s image

Company wasn’t for my personal benefit – Safa boss

Jeanette Chabalala Senior Reporter
Safa president Danny Jordaan has been embroiled in scandals and battles over the control of the national federation.
Safa president Danny Jordaan has been embroiled in scandals and battles over the control of the national federation.
Image: BackpagePix

A PR firm hired to clean-up Danny Jordaan’s image has detailed how it spent months working to influence the media to push a positive narrative about Safa and its scandal-prone president at the height of damaging allegations against him. 

In its report to Safa in the first 16 months of its work, Grit Communications detailed how it sought to soften the blow of perceived hostile media coverage and to place Jordaan at the centre of reviving the battered image of the organisation. 

It had identified a series of allegations as being part of an orchestrated attack by his detractors in football. 

These were the rape allegation by former singer Jennifer Ferguson, Jordaan’s political fight with veteran administrator Irvin Khoza as well as claims of a R10m Fifa bribe for the 2010 World Cup. 

It said such allegations sought to paint Jordaan as corrupt.

“While no person in SA has been charged or named for that matter, Dr Jordaan continues to be associated with the alleged bribe. Political agendas also prevent him from coming out with evidence to the contrary.”

The company noted that Jordaan’s tumultuous tenure as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay in 2016 had “further eroded” his reputation. 

The Grit Communication report is contained in court documents filed by Safa on April 4 asking the Johannesburg High Court to declare the recent raid by the Hawks at its offices unlawful.

Safa is being investigated by the Hawks for alleged corruption involving two companies, including Grit Communications which provided public relations support to the entity which extended to Jordaan.

For its work, the company pocketed R1,3m for the work it did for 16 months between October 2017 and February 2019.

"While Grit has assisted Safa to soften the blows of several crises over the past 12 months or so, that have occurred in the run-up to the elective congress, a more coordinated and proactive approach would serve Safa more effectively in so far as mitigating the impact of future negative attacks," the company wrote. 

The Hawks raided Safa's offices last month to obtain information related to contracts that Safa and Jordaan signed with Grit Communications and Badger Security, which were flagged by people within the organisation. 

Grit Communications said for several months its public relations objective was to obtain positive media coverage, increase local support for Safa and expand its traditional media influence.

It added that key messages for Safa were a bold plan for Bafana and African football and that the association was never implicated in the Fifa 2010 World Cup bribery allegations, and the organisation has upstanding, ethical and transformational leadership.

"We identified and engaged key media and local journalists with the aim of building long-term relationships. We advised on managing proactive engagements between the client and target media outlets such as meet-and-greets and weekly press conferences to facilitate ongoing dialogue and relevance,"  the firm said in its PR report to Safa at the time.  

The company said Jordaan had been smeared by several high-profile scandals initiated by his opponents in football politics ahead of the Safa elections in 2018. It was around this time that the rape allegations by Fergurson emerged.

"Also, a tumultuous stint as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay further eroded the gains his reputation had made from a stellar career in sports administration. We focused on Dr Jordaan's relations with the media as well as position him as being at the centre of reviving the image of the organisation.

"More media engagements discussing the successes of the organisation and its plans are vital to changing prevailing public perceptions."

Grit Communications added it also provided direct and ongoing support to Jordaan and Safa throughout the tumultuous rape allegations.

However, in his affidavit Jordaan denied the PR company was for anyone's benefit.  "At no point did Safa procure the services of Grit Communications for the personal benefit of any individual, including myself," he said.

But Grit said it interacted with the media and advised Jordaan, his executive and legal and communications team on interactions with the media.

The company said while the overall strategic PR programme was solid, the impact was not as effective. This, it said, was because the working relationship with the Safa communication team and executive was not ideal.

In the documents, the company listed some of the questions asked by former 702 journalist Azania Mosaka, who asked about prevailing public perceptions about Safa and Jordaan. 

The company said it also provided strategic media relations and crisis communications support to Safa in the face of hostile allegations made in complex football politics.

"While we have been able to secure positive coverage, it is not enough to overturn a pervasive negative perception of Safa and in this regard, we need to redouble our efforts.

"Positive coverage was obtained throughout the period but positive publicity efforts should be enhanced and right of reply considered more often. Safa must be seen to mount a visible defence so that its audiences can see that it takes seriously its reputation and image."

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