A top South African official responsible for co-ordinating government responsibilities towards hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup has resigned, a statement said yesterday.

Joe Phaahla, director-general of a government unit that oversees security, health, environmental and infrastructural preparations for the football extravaganza, will leave his post six months early on March 31, the government said.

“I need time to sort out a number of private initiatives. I also need to attend to other responsibilities in the (ruling) African National Congress (ANC), its executive to which I was elected in December,” Phaahla told AFP.

He headed the unit on a three-year contract that started in August 2005.

Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile has accepted Phaahla’s resignation, said the government statement. A replacement has yet to be announced.

There has been much speculation of tensions in Fifa’s local organising committee for the 2010 tournament.

Last month, communications head Tumi Makgabo resigned her appointment, officially citing a need to “focus on other projects”.

Her colleague in the marketing department, Tim Modise, has also indicated he would resign, but later changed his mind.

Sceptics have questioned South Africa’s ability to host the continent’s first-ever football World Cup, but top officials including President Thabo Mbeki have repeatedly promised to host the best event ever.

DATED: 14th March 2008