South Africa’s major event security infrastructure is fully operational and geared up for the start of the continent’s biggest footballing showpiece – Afcon 2013.
The first match in the 22 day Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) event kicks off at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday. Working in conjunction with the local organising committee for the event, 14 government departments and agencies have fine-tuned security operations to ensure all matches across the country take place in a peaceful and safe environment.
“The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) is the same as that responsible for co-ordinating security during the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. The same operational concept that was applied for those events is again being utilised on a smaller scale for Afcon 2013,” said Brigadier Sally de Beer of the SA Police Service, the lead Natjoints department.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is a major contributor to the overall Afcon security programme, with the SA Air Force and SA Navy having the greatest involvement. It is expected that the SA Army will also deploy in numbers to ensure the safety and players, officials, spectators and VIPs on the ground.
“Restricted airspace has been proclaimed around all stadiums for the duration of matches. The restricted airspace is five nautical miles (nine kilometres) with the exception of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium which is three nautical miles (six kilometres). This has been negotiated with the aviation sector and the necessary information released by the Civil Aviation Authority via an Aeronautical Information Supplement,” de Beer said, adding that the SAAF would use “assets” to ensure compliance with the match day restrictions.
She would not divulge further details but expectations are SAAF Hawk Mk120 lead-in fighter trainers will be used as interceptors to deal with any aircraft posing a potential threat. This is in line with the SAAF operational deployment used during the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.
The Navy will have offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) stationed in Durban and Port Elizabeth for the duration of the tournament. They will be responsible for out-of port patrols, while harbour protection boats (HPBs) will be responsible for in-port patrols. All seaborne operations will be co-ordinated from harbour venue operation centres under the command of the Joint Task Force Commander at the National Joint Operations Centre (Natjoc).
On road safety De Beer said this would be enhanced but delays and traffic congestion caused by security operations would be kept to a minimum.
“The objective is to maintain as smooth a flow of traffic as possible while, at the same time, applying and enforcing stringent security measures.
“There will be road restrictions on match days and these will be communicated by the various host cities,” she said.
The Department of Co-operative Governance’s disaster management section; the Department of Home Affairs; the Department of Trade and Industry; and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, are all part of Natjoints. Agencies involved are the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, the Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee, Government Communication and Information Service, the SA Weather Service, various metro police departments and Eskom.