Sat, November 21, 2009
Sports > Soccer

Police brace for FIFA World Cup in crime-troubled South Africa

2009-11-21 08:36:48 GMT2009-11-21 16:36:48 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

By Martin Williams

JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- With just over 200 days left before South Africa hosts the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, South African Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Saturday unveiled a comprehensive security plan to ensure the safety of visitors during the tournament.

Officials expect more than 450,000 foreign visitors for the football showpiece, which kicks off on June 14. It will be the biggest tournament ever hosted by South Africa, stretching a police force already struggling to contain one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Minister Mthethwa, addressing the National Press Club in Pretoria, said the plan, which includes addressing terror threats and hooliganism, has been endorsed by the football's world governing body FIFA.

Mthethwa said about R640 million ($90 million) has been set aside for the deployment of 41,000 police officers specifically for the event. The figure includes 31,000 permanent members and 10,000 reservists.

"The vast majority of the police deployed for the World Cup will be trained officers with experience in major events," said Mthethwa.

In addition, countries competing in the tournament will send their own specially trained police officers to assist with language and cultural differences and to support the South African Police Service.

Each of the 32 qualifying teams is also expected to send at least two police officers to support the security forces during the tournament.

South African Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, addressing the same function, said: "Serious violent organized crime remains a crucial focus of department. We are still concerned about it impact, however considerable strides have been made in setting up effective structures such as the directorate for Priority Crime Investigation."

"With the establishment of the directorate for Priority Crime Investigation we hope to enhance our capacity to deal not only with violent organised crime but also the illicit drug trade and commercial crime," Mbaulua said, adding that police in the port city of Durban raided a 500 million rand (67.5 million U.S. dollars) drug ring operated by a transactional syndicate involving South Africa and other countries. "Therefore we are already beginning to see some good work done by the directorate for Priority Crime Investigation."

Official police statistics show that aggravated robbery increased by 14 percent in the year to July 2009. The number of truck hijackings (now 1437), robberies at residential premises (246 616), and robberies at business premises (70 009)increased by15 percent, 27 percent, and 41 percent respectively.

There were 203,777 cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Attempted murders reached 18,298, while murders totalled 18,148.

There is no death penalty in South Africa. Between 1995 and 2009, the total prison population increased by 33 percent. During the same period, the number of awaiting-trial detainees grew by 93percent, according to a Crime and Security report by the South African Institute of Race Relations released on November 17.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Saturday that the recent crime statistics highlighted the need for police to adopt a vigorous approach against criminals, including changing the law to give police officers more power.

Mthwethwa lashed out at those who criticised proposed amendments to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

"The amendment is not intended to allow for trigger-happy police officers. The ongoing assertions that the recent shooting incidents of innocent civilians are caused by police recklessness cannot be concluded by media courts.

"We need to point out that many in our society, including the media, have sensationalized this issue. There has been a general failure to recognise that the use of deadly force already applies in the current section," Mthethwa said.

South African President Jacob Zuma on Friday reiterated that no police officer has permission to shoot suspects in circumstances other than those provided for by law. The Criminal Procedure Act deals with the use of force in effecting arrest.

Minister Mthethwa said it needed to be made clear that the amendment focused on the ability of the police to deal with violent criminals who placed the lives of both police officers and the public in danger.

The minister said the changes will leave police in a situation where they will be less open to uncertainty when applying force. The amendment to Section 49 was part of a broader strategy to fight crime, said Mthethwa.

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