DURBAN: When thousands of football fanatics descend onto Africa’s soil next year for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it will not only be soccer hooligans that South African Police Service (SAPS) will need to watch out for.
There is another threat that the Police have confirmed concerns them: terrorism. The threat has led the SAPS to get in touch with their counterparts from Interpol and the countries where the participating teams are coming from.
“We are concerned about both (terrorism and hooliganism). There is a possibility of importing these,” said Vish Naidoo, Senior Superintendent with the SAPS.
Terrorists normally target soft spots where there are larger crowds, especially those comprising Europeans and Americans. Recently, Botswana deported alleged terror plotters who wanted to set up a sleeper cell to target visitors to the World Cup.
According to the latest tickets sales, there are more Americans and British citizens who are applying for seats for the world’s biggest soccer event.
Naidoo explained that to deal with the situation, they are guided by intelligence they get from officers on the ground. To prepare for the situation, the SAPS recently conducted a simulation exercise in Cape Town, ahead of the World Cup, involving a hijacking, and a terror attack, involving a truck carrying radio active material.
“The challenge is crowd management and terrorism, but we are working with Interpol and the countries where the teams are coming from,” added Naidoo.
SAPS is expected to deploy 52, 000 personnel, from the 1,300 police stations around the country, for the event. The officers will be used to monitor the public viewing areas, which Naidoo said is not a major policing problem because they have experience of hosting previous events.
South Africa is known for the crime scourge, especially at the airports where most of the visitors from abroad will use. The country became a laughing stock in Botswana when the former state President Festus Mogae had his luggage frisked and his presents from Sweden stolen.
“The airports represent Brand SA. OR Tambo is the largest port in Africa. If anything goes wrong, it will affect the brand,” said Monhla Hlahla, SA Airports Company CEO.