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South Africa Police Train to Face World Cup Emergencies

  • Scott Bobb

As football fans around the world gear up for the World Cup that begins June 11 in South Africa, organizers have been devoting considerable time and money to address a major concern, security in a country with a high incidence of violent crime.

In a simulation, South African police confront violent demonstrators outside Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium, one of the two arenas in the city that will host World Cup matches. It is an exercise aimed at preparing law enforcement officers for one of the sporting world's largest events.

The police are training to deal with any security threat, from political demonstrations and angry fans to hooligans and terrorist attempts.

The government has spent nearly $200 million on training and new equipment. It plans to dedicate 40,000 police officers, one-fourth of its total force, to World Cup events.

Each of the nine host cities has been divided into sectors, including areas around the stadiums, transportation hubs, hotels and tourist attractions.

Special courts are being created, with their own judges and legal staffs, to handle arrests near the 10 stadiums hosting World Cup matches.

Officials say they will speed up legal procedures so that any visitors accused of a crime can complete the legal process before the tournament ends.

Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa says his forces have been preparing since South Africa was chosen to host the World Cup six years ago.

"We have been reiterating since May 2004, when we won the bid, as South Africa we are confident the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be safe and secure," said Mthethwa.

He says his group has been working with intelligence agencies in the 31 nations that are sending teams to South Africa to counter terrorist threats.

"Every precaution has been taken against international and local terror threats for the 2010 FIFA World Cup," he added. "Since 2004 we have been working closely with international agencies to gather intelligence to overcome any potential terrorism act."

There have been media reports that international terrorist groups may be planning attacks during the World Cup.

Mthethwa says these have been checked and proven to be false. He says it would be unwise to proclaim that no terror attack could occur in his country, but he said there is no known threat at this time.

In another exercise, police practice clearing demonstrators blocking a stadium access road. National Police Chief Bheki Cele is overseeing the exercise. He is asked if his forces are ready.

"I am not ready for today," he said. "I am not ready for tomorrow. I am ready for yesterday. If you wanted to start your World Cup yesterday, I would have said I am ready."

As dusk begins to gather the day's training ends. But Cele says preparations will continue until the World Cup kick-off on June 11.

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