Pressure to withdraw World Cup from SA - Cele

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke was "almost in tears" earlier this year from the pressure he was under to withdraw the World Cup from South Africa, police commissioner General Bheki Cele said on Friday.

Cele told Parliament's portfolio committee on police that Valcke had raised his concerns about security in South Africa in a meeting with police officials at OR Tambo Airport on January 27, shortly after an attack on the Togo team at the African Nations Cup in Angola.

"On 27th January we received an SOS call from Fifa," Cele said.

"We were a bit annoyed that they were calling us like a schoolboy called by the principal, but understanding the seriousness of the World Cup we complied and met the secretary general of Fifa at OR Tambo Airport.

"The secretary general was almost in tears because of the pressure he was under to withdraw the World Cup from South Africa.

"There was a big push. That was after the incident in Kabinda where there was a shooting on the team from Togo."

Cele said in the meeting, the police agreed "to address the world about the security readiness of South Africa" for the World Cup.

A series of meetings was arranged around Europe, starting in Zurich on March 4 and 5.

"Interest was huge. We had all countries in Zurich, minus three - Chile, Ghana and North Korea - but everybody else was there.

"After that we had to face 50 media houses to explain how safe we are in South Africa.

"After two days of presentation the general secretary said please ask the questions you need to ask about security now, but they did not ask security questions after the presentation.

"They asked about hotels, games, but not about security.

"We were very satisfied that we had done the plan properly. That is why we argue we are ready."

Cele said a team of officers had "criss-crossed" Europe, answering questions on security concerns.

He said dealing with the perception of the world about safety in South Africa had been "tougher than security planning on the ground".

"The preparation of the World Cup had been on two main issues - the actual operations to protect the World Cup, but also the perception of the world about South Africa, which has been tougher than the planning on the ground."

He said Germany and the United Kingdom had been two of South Africa's toughest critics.

"There have been two very critical countries - Germany and the UK," he said, adding that the governments and policing agencies of the two countries "had not been part of these lobbies".

"When the German lobby group said their players would have to wear bulletproof vests on and off the field in South Africa, their police distanced themselves from that.

"Then Britain said they would have to wear a stab vest sold at OR Tambo... During the campaign on gun collection there was a campaign of knife collection in the UK, because they are stabbing one another like hell there.

"When they talk about the knife vest, they understand exactly what they mean."

He said the police had met representatives from Interpol at a meeting in Berlin.

"After our presentation Interpol said 'bravo'," Cele said.

The feedback on security from the South African ambassador in Germany and the High Commissioner in London had been excellent, until the murder of AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche.

"Again we had to take a step back after the work we had done," he said.

He told the committee that the newly established Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee (ICC), which incorporates all the country's intelligence bodies, was working "very well" with intelligence agencies around the world.

The ICC was able to check terror rumours within hours, he said.

"There was a statement from Tunisia about an allegation that Al-Qaeda wanted to see dead bodies upside down in the game where the Americans and the UK will be playing.

"We have checked intelligence and we are satisfied there is no threat facing 2010."

Cele said by May 24 the police would be completely focused on 2010.

"By May 24 all agencies will be based in the country. We have invited all participating countries to send between six and eight officers to work with us on a daily basis. The UK and US have requested more and we have allowed them that."

Cele said police from other countries would have no authority of arrest in South Africa.

They would be here in an advisory capacity, he said.

"The 2010 World Cup is an international event staged in South Africa. That is why the world must protect it with South Africa leading." - Sapa


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