President Jacob Zuma dismissed fears of any attack at the World Cup later this year, promising South Africa would host a safe competition which would leave a legacy of economic development.
Gunmen attacked Togo’s soccer squad at the African Cup of Nations earlier this month, killing two members of the delegation and raising questions over security at the world’s biggest single-sport event in South Africa in June and July.
But Zuma said it would be wrong to compare security in his country with Angola, which he said had “just emerged from war” and was four hours’ flight time from South Africa.
“South Africa has put a clear plan in terms of security,” Zuma told delegates at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. “Our police force, aided by the army and other security elements are very clear and ready.
“Nothing will happen.”
South Africa does not suffer from political violence like Angola’s Cabinda enclave, where separatists who have fought a low-level war for three decades opened fire on the Togolese team bus.
However, crime is a major concern for the World Cup hosts.
The security budget has not been made public but 52 000 police officers will be on duty for the month-long World Cup, which begins on June 11. At least R13 billion has been spent on new stadiums and infrastructure.
Zuma said the competition would showcase South Africa as a trade, business and tourism destination, and that infrastructure projects ahead of the World Cup had boosted the economy.
The experience of preparing the country to host the competition also left it well-placed to continue “a very huge programme of infrastructure development for the next five years”, Zuma said.
Pic: Zakumi mascot