South African police ‘raising their game’

24 February 2010

South Africa has successfully delivered close to 150 major sporting events, including the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup and 2009 Indian Premier League, without incident. The 2010 Fifa World Cup™ is a much bigger affair – and the South African Police Service has “raised its game” accordingly.

“We are working tirelessly to ensure this is one of the best tournaments that Fifa has hosted,” says SAPS spokesman Vishnu Naidoo. “We want people to come and enjoy themselves, secure in the knowledge that we will do the policing.”

R665m on new equipment

The SAPS has now taken delivery of R665-million worth of new equipment. This includes six new helicopters, 10 mobile command vehicles, 100 high-performance vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, body armour and water cannons.

Besides the investment in equipment, the SAPS has also recruited 55 000 new police officers over the last five years. This force will be complemented with an additional 41 000 officers who have gained invaluable experience in handling major sports tournaments.

These security forces will be charged with border control, route security, city security, stadium security and crowd management during the tournament.

“We have managed to allocate more than the required capacity for the tournament,” says Naidoo. “So there is going to be high visibility of police officers during 2010.”

Specialist units

For the tournament, South Africa has trained a number of highly specialised units that will focus on reacting to situations as they arise. The Public Order Police will manage crowd control and any threat of organised fighting or hooliganism.

These 8 500 officers completed a year-long training programme with the French National Gendarmerie in November 2009. Experts in crowd management, the Gendarmerie gained substantial experience in the 1998 Fifa World Cup in France.

Another highly trained unit, the Tactical Response Team, has been developed to deal with more serious complaints. “The goal was to have these teams in all the major cities, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, by the end of December, but we have already gone beyond this target,” says Naidoo.

The security forces for the 2010 Fifa World Cup have been involved in simulation exercises used to prepare officers for any eventuality, ranging from chemical, biological and radioactive attacks to hijackings, hostage situations and major disasters, both natural and unnatural.

Intelligence, global connections

In addition to South Africa’s increased security, Interpol has pledged its commitment to support the country during the tournament. The international police organisation will be establishing an office in South Africa, offering support in movement control and the authenticating of passports.

Interpol has also developed a Dangerous and Disruptive Persons (DDP) database for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. This database can be used to identify people who are involved in any form of organised crime or organised fighting. Once a person is recorded on this database, they will not be allowed into South Africa.

“We have various proactive measures to stop identified criminals from entering our country,” says Naidoo. “We are in contact with our counterparts in World Cup participating countries, and then we have an intelligence community that is constantly gathering information. In order to get into South Africa, these people will have many obstacles to get through.”

All of these initiatives form part of South Africa’s World Cup legacy programme, Naidoo adds. “Once these systems are in place, they will last long after the World Cup. We will keep using these relationships and equipment to ensure a safer region and a safer country. South Africans will benefit from us hosting the tournament long after July 2010.

“Right now, our priority is to deliver a safe and secure tournament,” says Naidoo. “Overconfidence is tantamount to complacency, and we don’t want to be complacent.

“We want people to come to South Africa and enjoy themselves, so we are going to be firm but friendly.”

Source: 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa Organising Committee