In the run for FIFA presidency, we’ve met some interesting characters. For those interested in the names involved in the race, none stands out more than Tokyo Sexwale. Tokyo, whose real first name is Mosima, is a South African activist and businessman. He’s a big name in the diamond industry, and served prison time with Nelson Mandela.
Aside from being a big name is South Africa, Sexwale has also been important to FIFA in recent years. He was on the organizing committee for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and has mediated disputes between the Israeli and Palestinian football federations. He is also a member of FIFA’s anti-discrimination committee.
Here’s the facts on Tokyo Sexwale:
1. Sexwale Was Imprisoned With Nelson Mandela on Robben Island
Sexwale left his home of Johannesburg to attend the University of Botswana, where he was active in student politics. After graduation he went into exile, and underwent military officer training in the Soviet Union. Sexwale resurfaced in South Africa a year later, and was imprisoned or terrorism charges. He was imprisoned in 1977, and served 13 years of his 18 year sentence.
After their release, Sexwale dove right into South African politics. First he served as head of the public liaison office for the African National Congress, and grew into more roles with the ANC. In 1994 Sexwale was appointed as the first premier of the country’s richest province, Gauteng. The province contains the two biggest cities in South Africa, Pretoria and Johannesburg. He stayed in that role until 1998, when he left politics to focus on his business ventures.
2. The Name Tokyo Comes From His Karate Experience as a Youth
Sexwale was born in Orlando West, an urban area of Johannesburg. As the third of six children, Sexwale grew up in a time of political uprising in his neighborhood. He got his nickname “Tokyo” from his involvement in Karate as a youth. Through friends in high school, he made his first contact with the African National Congress. He also became a leader of the SASM, or South African Students’ Movement.
3. He Served as Minister of Settlements in the South African Government
Upon their release from prison, Mandela and Sexwale were important figures in South African government. Sexwale was actively involved in the government’s cabinet, and many thought he held presidential aspirations. After Mandela stepped down, Sexwale and Thabo Mbeki were strong candidates to replace him. Once Mbeki pulled away in the polls, Sexwale stepped away from politics.
Sexwale put his political career on pause in 1998, so he could focus on his ventures in the mining industry. His main company, Mvelaphanda Holdings, is one of the top producers of diamonds on the planet. Mvelaphanda is the Venda word for “progress.”
4. He Hosted the South African Version of the Apprentice
Sexwale has been a name in South Africa for many years. He’s been successful in the mining industry, and has an estimated net worth of $200 million. He spent time in politics, and briefly owned a racing team.
Sexwale made his fortune with Mvelaphanda Holdings, a mining company with a focus on diamonds. His rendition of The Apprentice drew national controversy, as Sexwale could not decide which finalist he would hire on the live finale. Both candidates were hired on the 2005 live finale.
5. Four Other Men Have Submitted Candidacy For FIFA President
Sexwale joins a list of four other men vying for the title of FIFA President. To run, the candidate must be nominated by at least five national federations and show they have played an active role in FIFA for two of the last five years. They will also face ethics checks. The vote will be held February 26th.
The other men nominated are UEFA President Michel Platini, Jerome Champagne of France, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, and former Trinidad & Tobago midfielder David Nakhid. Most notably it was Prince Ali bin al-Hussein who opposed Blatter and lost in the May elections.