‘Leave security measures to the police’

2010-04-08 08:41

South African extremists are warning countries about sending their

soccer teams to a “land of murder” after a notorious white supremacist was

bludgeoned to death only 10 weeks before the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Tour operators counter that the high-profile slaying hasn’t led to

cancellations and that many coming already knew South Africa has high rates of

violent crime - about 50 murders a day. FIFA also says it is pleased with the

country’s security arrangements.

EccoTours CEO Steve Bailey said: “It’s a murder that’s happened,

there’s murder happening all over the place around the world.”

South Africa’s crime rate, among the highest in the world, has been

a concern since it won the bid to become the first African host of the FIFA

World Cup. The tournament kicks off June 11 and hundreds of thousands of

visitors are expected to descend on the country.

South Africa’s 50 murders a day translate into 38.6 for every

100?000 citizens, compared to 0.88 in Germany, host of the last FIFA World Cup.

South Africa’s murder rate actually dropped slightly last year, but the numbers

of car hijackings and rapes increased.

Britain’s Daily Star newspaper published an article on Monday

headlined “World Cup machete threat,” claiming machete-wielding gangs were

roaming the streets of South Africa after Eugene Terreblanche’s killing and that

England fans could be caught up in violence.

The article caused outrage in South Africa amid concerns it could

frighten away tourists.

“People are waiting to see if there will be retaliation. If there’s

retaliatory violence, that will have a massive effect - it could be disastrous

for South Africa and the World Cup,” Bailey said.

Terreblanche’s extremist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging movement,

better known as the AWB, had vowed to avenge his death. One of the suspect’s

mothers said that Terreblanche was killed on Saturday in a wage dispute after he

had failed to pay them since December.

The AWB retracted the threat this week, renouncing violence and

calling on its members to be calm.

The AWB, though, warned countries sending

teams to the FIFA World Cup that South Africa is a “land of murder,” and not to

do so unless they were given “sufficient protection”.

FIFA World Cup matches will be played in nine cities in South

Africa, but none will be held in Ventersdorp, the nearest town to where

Terreblanche was slain, about 110km northwest of Johannesburg.

The country’s ruling ANC party has slammed the AWB for advising

teams against playing at the FIFA World Cup.

“We don’t think that it’s the right thing to do,” ANC spokesperson

Jackson Mthembu said.

“This is a World Cup for all of us, not only black people of this

country. And we have to give all the support we can for the World Cup to happen

here in South Africa.”

The Association of British Travel Agents, which represents the

majority of tour operators there, said it is extremely unlikely the high-profile

slaying would discourage people. Many travellers have already made their World

Cup bookings and there have been no queries about cancelling, it said.

There was a similar response from Tourvest, a South African-based

tour provider handling 80?000 foreign World Cup tourists and SA Tourism, the

state tourism development company, as well as the Football Supporters

Federation, a 142?000-strong body representing fans’ interests in England and

Wales.

“The British holiday-maker takes a very pragmatic view of possible

risks, and will only consider cancelling trips if there is a very real danger,”

said Sean Tipton, spokesperson from the British travel agents.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice to fans

remains unchanged: making sure they have somewhere to stay, stay on tourist

routes and remain vigilant.

“I can imagine that people might be a little anxious, and we do

have that perception of South Africa as a crime-ridden country,” said Wendy

Tlou, spokesperson for SA Tourism.

She said people should not be concerned about “isolated incidents,”

but added: “We won’t be able to stop every pickpocketer.”

Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble, on a tour of security

facilities in Johannesburg last week, said he was satisfied with South Africa’s

plans. The 2010 FIFA World Cup will have the largest ever deployment of Interpol

officers at any global event, with 20 to 25 countries providing additional

manpower for the month-long tournament.

FIFA said it is “pleased with the strong commitment of the South

African authorities to do everything possible in their power to ensure a safe

and secure event.”

Zweli Mnisi, spokesperson for the South African Minister of Police,

emphasised the country’s “comprehensive security plan” and said there was no

need for additional measures since Terreblanche’s death.

“Buy your tickets, enjoy the games, leave security measures to the

police,” Mnisi said.


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