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Tournament will be safe, say SA security chiefs

17 January 2013
Two days before the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), South Africa’s security forces are confident they will create and manage a safe, controlled environment during the tournament.

Lt-Gen Elias Mawela, chairman of the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints), said on Thursday a concerted effort had been made to ensure spectators and citizens enjoy the continental showpiece without security or safety concerns.

“Among a multitude of other tasks, the National Joint Operational Centre has a finger on the pulse of every movement of each team and match official, around the clock,” said Mawela.

He was speaking at Swartkop Air Force Base in Centurion, after the Natjoints departments were deployed.

Mawela said there had been no terrorism threats in the build-up to the tournament, and while the Natjoints was unsure how many tourists would visit the country during the competition, it was confident that residents and visitors would be as well-behaved as they were during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The same operational security concept applied for the global tournament would be followed, on a reduced scale, in the five host cities –Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and Rustenburg.

“Our aim is to allow a festive mood, in which co-operation between the security forces and football supporters will be promoted, while at the same time ensuring world class standards of safety and ability,” Mawela said.

All major routes into the host cities, public transport systems and tourist attractions would be monitored, there would be visible policing, and air space around the stadiums would be restricted.

Plans were in place to avoid crowd trouble at the venues.

“We will ensure good spectator behaviour, and put spotters among the spectators, so if there are people causing trouble we can remove them quietly while a game is being played.” Mawela said not all attention would be focused on the football competition, and day-to-day policing would continue.

“We expect our officers and officials to be good ambassadors for South Africa and represent this country well.” Police commissioner Riah Phiyega said the Natjoints had done well to have everything in place, after South Africa was appointed as Afcon hosts in August 2011 due to political turmoil in Libya, which had initially won the bid.

“We have put together a very comprehensive security plan in a very short period of time,” Phiyega said. ”It shows how established this structure has become.” The Natjoints, which was formed 12 years ago, is a joint structure made up of the SA Police Service, the SA National Defence Force, metro police, intelligence agencies and representatives of various government departments.

The Afcon tournaments kicks off on Saturday, with the opening match between hosts South Africa and Cape Verde Islands at the National Stadium (FNB Stadium) in Johannesburg. – Sapa

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