Saturday, May 23, 2009

SA 2010: Crime, terrorism and all that

The World Cup is a truly global event and, because of the nature of the competition, organisers need to consider any potential threat that the host country will face during the month long football extravaganza. Some people may not even consider the subjects of crime and terrorism, however, the host country needs to plan for any possibility, with safety and security key to the smooth running of the World Cup.

Next year is a very important year for South Africa and its people, as the football World Cup brings fans of the beautiful game from all over the world to the tip of Africa in what will be the first ever tournament held on the continent.

The IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket competition was recently moved to South Africa from India due to government fears that the country could not provide adequate security for fans after a number of terrorist attacks in the country claimed lives and destroyed the reputation of relatively peaceful Indian cities.

The IPL takes place later this month [has started, actually, and ends tomorrow] and South Africa was chosen to host it with less than a month to go before it was scheduled to start. This is further proof of the world’s faith in South Africa as a nation capable of hosting a sterling event and taking good care of those that choose to travel to the Rainbow Nation.

One thing is undeniable, however, and in modern times terrorism is a curse that is present throughout the world. The staging of the World Cup brings with it a certain focus and media rich environment that could create a potential target for terrorists aiming to capture the attention of the world with an act of cowardly violence.

The man whose job it is to neutralise these types of threats is director David Garnett - 2010 Senior Operations Coordinator - and he is mustering all his forces to combat both terrorists and criminals.

Speaking about crime, Garnett said, "[The] government has admitted that crime is a problem in South Africa, but I can give you the assurance that there are thousands upon thousands of dedicated members of the South African Police Services who are really working day and night in order to address the scourge of crime. We have had enormous successes."

Over the past few months the main concern of the world press has been the completion of the stadia, something that is moving along smoothly and without many obstacles. But what people have not noticed is the truly enormous security effort behind the scenes to ensure the safety of the players, fans and officials that come to the country.

In modern times terrorism is a curse that is present throughout the world.

- Peter Pedroncelli

For the last 18 months 14 different government departments have been conducting joint operations in different host cities around the country. A massive 41,000 additional policemen will be deployed before the tournament, with the police's budget alone amounting to R1.3 billion.

A grand plan is coming together to secure the routes, accommodation and tourist attractions. South Africa will be super safe by 2010. Backing up the average cops on the street is the police task force, who have spent months in training ahead of 2010.

Garnet said, “Special forces are going to be utilised according to their roles and responsibilities. Those details I'm not going to make public for obvious reasons because they remain the sharp edge of our policing."

He is also planning to supplement South African forces with foreign police. "We are in the process of inviting the police agencies from the countries who are attending the event to provide us with 16 to 20 police officers who will then be deployed in South Africa,” he said.

And where an incident occurs Special Courts will be set up to deal with any crime immediately.

A massive 41,000 additional policemen will be deployed before the tournament, with the police's budget alone amounting to R1.3 billion.

Garnet continued, "The police are about 175,000 people [strong] at present and we are calling up some 41,000 - so there are many police officers left who will be conducting their normal crime prevention, law enforcement and investigation duties. We do not leave the rest of South Africa without any policing - that would be ludicrous."

In terms of the recent wave of terrorism, the air force is prepared to deal with any airborne threats that may present themselves.

After 18 months of World Cup specific training regarding any threats during the competition, the police, emergency services and the air force gave the media a glimpse of their training.

In a mock exercise, hijackers stormed in and captured members of the media. Three state of the art Hawk fighter jets were immediately commandeered to force the rogue plane down and, for the sake of the exercise, it landed. The hijackers were apprehended and hostages freed by a tactical task force. Meanwhile, a robot diffused a bomb on the tarmac. It was an example of what could happen in an emergency, and the training involved with the various situations portrayed in the exercise was impressive.

After 18 months of World Cup training, the police, emergency services and the air force gave the media a glimpse of their training.

Lombard explains, "The worst case scenario would be that there would be intervention on the aircraft which could lead to the aircraft being shot down, but for that we would need presidential approval."

The fact that such situations have been taken into consideration is another reason why the World Cup is bound to be a success in South Africa. So much planning has gone into every detail of the competition. For the duration of the World Cup all aircraft flying within 50 nautical miles of a stadium will be deemed to be in military airspace. Working closely with civil aviation, even the air crews will need to be pre-approved.

Garnet added, "Obviously terrorism remains one of our main focus areas from a safety and security perspective. But I can tell you that we put in contingency plans to deal with any event in South Africa. We have dealt with major events in the past. We've had over 140 major events in the country since 1994 so I am confident from an international perspective that South Africa is quite safe."

Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan is confident of a safe World Cup. “We have had a 100 per cent safety record for every single match over the last 15 years in this country and, as we sit today, we are confident that we will have a safe event,” he said.

There is no doubt that South Africa is focusing on the safety and security of those fans that will travel to the country during the Confederations Cup and World Cup.

It certainly seems as though the country will be very safe and secure during the tournaments, leaving a legacy for those that remain after the final whistle has been blown.

First published by Peter Pedroncelli,