The match-fixing scandal involving the South African national team is to be investigated by an independent judicial enquiry with backing from FIFA, world soccer's governing body said on Friday.

"This long-standing open case is harming South African football," said FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke in a FIFA statement published following a meeting with South Africa Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.

"It is vital that this matter which dates back to 2010 is concluded soon, with the culprits to be sanctioned in accordance with the zero tolerance policy."

FIFA found the results of pre-World Cup warm-up matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in the weeks leading up the 2010 finals had been fixed.

This briefly led to the suspension of South Africa FA (SAFA) president Kirsten Nematandani who was later reinstated and was also present at Friday's meeting.

"It is vital that this matter which dates back to 2010 is concluded soon, with the culprits to be sanctioned in accordance with the zero tolerance policy"

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke

FIFA said the mandate of the judicial committee "will be limited to matters related to the case of irregularities related to friendly matches of the SAFA in the build-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup." 

The SAFA's executive committee agreed on Saturday for the government to take the lead in investigating match-fixing, but it said it wanted a top FIFA prosecutor to join in.

SAFA recommended that the chairman of the investigating arm of FIFA's ethics committee, Michael Garcia, be part of a three-member commission. 

"It is critical that structures are set-up in order to tackle similar cases should they happen in the future," said Valcke.

"I am very pleased by the commitment of the South African government and also SAFA to make sure this matter is now dealt with as a highest priority.

"FIFA will provide any advice and support possible both at investigatory and disciplinary level. To this effect a representative from FIFA's Security Division was also at today's meeting."

Allegations of match-fixing were first revealed in the South African press in July 2011 but SAFA did not immediately act.

The issue was only raised once FIFA had incorporated the country into a wider investigation into Wilson Raj Perumal, a Singaporean jailed for two years for masterminding a match-fixing scheme in Finland.

Nematandani and four other top officials were briefly suspended following the handing over in December by FIFA to SAFA of a 500-page investigation into the activities of Perumal and his Football 4U organisation.

But within a month their suspension was lifted on procedural grounds.

Source: Reuters