18 May 2010
The centre of Sandton, Johannesburg’s financial district, came to a brief standstill on Monday as thousands of police officers, soldiers and emergency personnel paraded on the streets in an impressive show of readiness ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™.
Office workers clustered at windows and building rooftops to catch a glimpse of the action as hundreds of police vehicles, assisted by helicopters, “invaded” the central business district.
More than 3 000 police officers and an estimated 200 vehicles were used for the exercise.
While it was only a security simulation, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the exercise sent a clear message that the police would leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of every South African and visitor during the World Cup.
The exercise was one of many planned throughout the country in the period leading to the World Cup to test the ability of the country’s security forces to respond to emergencies and potential acts of terrorism.
Various units, including a Special Task Force team, a Technical Unit, and Flying and Mountain Squad units participated in the exercises in order to ensure that every security detail was covered.
Mthethwa said that while the country’s law enforcement were under no illusion as to the magnitude of the World Cup, South Africa was not under pressure to prove anything to the world.
“We have nothing to prove, we have hosted many big sporting events in this country. But what we are doing here today is to say that we shall spare neither strength nor efforts to ensure the safety of our visitors and all South Africans and everyone else who will be in our country,” Mthethwa said.
At the same time, Mthethwa urged all those who would be visiting the country to be vigilant and exercise caution as the police could not be at every place all the time. “We are urging you to use all the available resources to blow the whistle on crime and help the police to ensure that everyone is safe,” Mthethwa said.
Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele, who earlier received a detailed security plan for the event, gave an assurance that police would use the best intelligence gathering methods available to prevent any act of terrorism during the tournament.
“We are aware that terrorists like to use international events to register their selfish messages, and we would like to assure you that we are ready to squeeze them,” Cele said.
Mthethwa said the security plan had received approval from the government and Fifa and would be implemented in full throughout the 30-day tournament.