SAfrica seeks to reassure fans with security show

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SAfrica seeks to reassure fans with security show

Security forces paraded their World Cup arsenal through the streets of S Africa’s financial capital Monday, hoping to reassure fans the country will be safe during football’s premier event.

By (AP)

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Published: Mon 17 May 2010, 6:50 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:25 AM

South Africa’s high crime rate has been under intense scrutiny since the country was awarded the right to host Africa’s first World Cup. Police have recruited and trained 44,000 officers for the event that starts June 11, and bought vehicles, water cannons and other equipment, some of which was on display.

Johannesburg, where the parade was held, has two World Cup stadiums and a third in nearby Pretoria means that this central region of South Africa will host more World Cup games than any other. Most of the 32 teams competing in the tournament have their training bases in this area and the majority of tourists are expected to stay in Johannesburg or nearby.

“South Africa will host the safest and most secure FIFA World Cup,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said. “The force is ready. That is the message we shared with South Africans over the past year and that we will be articulating to our 2010 visitors. Police will be everywhere, ready to respond to any eventuality.”

His national police chief, Bheki Cele pledged to leave “no oxygen” for criminals, and added the World Cup would leave a security legacy.

“The resources have been put here, the training will be there to benefit the people of South Africa,” Cele said.

Some 200 vehicles were on display Monday, along with two helicopters and special police squads demonstrating parachuting from aircraft and rappelling down buildings.

Financial experts and constructions workers paused to watch in a part of Johannesburg where skyscrapers gleam and hovering cranes attest that more glass-and-steel buildings will soon rise.

Banker Lina Chauke belied her sober suit, dancing on high heels and waving a tiny South African flag as the parade passed. She said she believed World Cup visitors would be safe, and that South Africans would be safer because of investments in security made as a result of the country hosting the tournament.

Police officers “won’t have an excuse. All of them, they’ll be well-trained,” she said. “I’m very optimistic.”

Interpol secretary general Ronald K. Noble has praised South Africa’s preparations for the World Cup, which have included seeking training from other countries. Interpol, the agency formed to help police around the world work better together, is sending 200 experts, while each of the 31 visiting teams will be sending up to eight officers to work with South African police.

Also Monday, a Cabinet minister in neighboring Zimbabwe said political protests and other demonstrations would be banned there during the World Cup.

Giles Mutsekwa of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s party, who shares responsibility for the police ministry with a politician from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party, said the aim was to “rebrand” Zimbabwe and the region as safe for World Cup visitors. Mugabe’s party has long been accused of trampling on democratic rights to stay in power.

Zweli Mnisi, spokesman for South Africa’s Police Minister Mthethwa, said there were no plans to ban demonstrations in the host country.

“To protest and to march is a constitutional right of every South African,” Mnisi said, though he did call for protests to be orderly.

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