An earth-shaking event such as the World Cup will present a serious security challenge to any nation on the planet earth, no matter how rich, no matter the sophistication of its security institutions/agencies and no matter the degree of vigilance. Since winning the ticket in August 2007 to host the World Cup, the government and people of South Africa have committed enormous resources, both in capital and human resources to see to the realisation of this mega event in their country. It is true that winning to host has provoked an burst of euphoria all through the land, but as the participating teams, visitors/tourists begin to arrive in South Africa this week, that euphoria will soon give way, with the government and the very reflective South Africans holding their breath as to the next big issue-security and the challenges it poses to all the stakeholders.
Although we at Vigilance fully identify with the government and people of South Africa since winning the hosting right from the FIFA, we shall not allow ourselves to be drowned in the euphoria of hosting, and later, of one team or another winning. But being a security magazine, we are more interested in security than in anything else. By its very nature, the World Cup, wherever it is hosted is a crowd-puller, it brings men and women of diverse backgrounds, means and idiosyncrasies together. Once a nation has secured the hosting right, peoples of all realms and climes tend to book their holidays to coincide with the event. Apart from persons of all nations who would troop to South Africa to watch the most unifying event in the world, more than any organised religion in the world, it has been widely speculated that more than 26 million people worldwide will watch the forth coming World Cup on television alone.
In essence, the capability of South Africa in managing an event of this magnitude is in the balance, alongside its capability to ensure the safety and security of its visitors. It is a truism that not all persons will be going there as friends of SA, some will be there as foes, still some will be there to avenge old wrongs of South Africa against them and their countries, while others will be there just to ensure the big event does not succeed. It is not also unlikely that some impetuous South Africans will like to exhume primordial experiences with a view to getting their pound of flesh. And in a world fraught with terrorists’ activities, it is not unlikely also, that agents of mass destruction such as al-Qaida will ably be represented.
Football by its nature is emotion-laden, fans of each team from all over the world will react very pleasantly and enthusiastically when things go their way. Conversely, some fans will at times react uncontrollably and violently when the reverse is the case. These are the sorts of people that pose serious security threat – And no matter how prepared and equipped the SA security agencies/personnel are, this latter group will indeed test their security skills. In as much as we call on the South African security to keep vigilant eyes on the whole event and people to ensure everyone’s safety including infrastructure which had consumed colossal sums of money to put in place, on this very group they are to go beyond the call of duty, not officiously, but humanely and professionally to ensure any potential unruly behaviour is nipped in the bud. Despite the fact that the British Police Authorities had recently asked over 300 well known football hooligans to surrender their passports in order to prevent them from travelling to South Africa, the job of the South African security personnel has not been made easier in any least way. The South African security officials may have done all their level best to put the necessary checks that will foil any threats from any quarters, but we warn against self-complacency, they can only beat their chests after the overall outcome of the event, as they are more hooligans and other trouble makers out there.
It is not also unlikely that the “home boys”, by this we mean, home gangsters, miscreants and criminals who are no doubt very well known to the security Authorities may want to avenge one past wrong or another in order to disrupt the event, about this group, we hasten to warn that they be kept in constant check by the police to prevent their satanic plots to materialise.
Although the job of ensuring the security and safety of persons and properties during the period that the event will last is the primary responsibility of the South African security Authorities, but at the end of the day, because everybody is involved, it is therefore, the duty of everybody to ensure the safety and security of all concerned. All therefore, have equal responsibility as the security personnel to ensure the safety and security of all.
In order for potential security threats to be nipped in the bud, all concerned, visitors and ordinary South Africans alike are to be on the alert and report all such potential threats to security. The security personnel themselves must be pro-active. To ensure the full participation and co-operation of all concerned, the brochures/booklets/information packs of the event and hotel brochures should come with emergency numbers and a brief information on how to report all threats to the police and other security agents; emergency numbers of ambulances should also be included in these booklets/information packs; also all electric poles within the vicinity of the event should have these emergency numbers tied to them and they should also be posted in strategic and conspicuous public places, pubs, supermarkets and in all hotel rooms including having them in checking-in information booklets.
As people will be coming from all corners of the globe to South Africa, they are likely going to see so many behaviours, customs, norms, mores and cultures that are very much cherished by the people of South Africa, but which will be strange to them-these they must learn to respect and we encourage all to respect and obey the laws of South Africa. The hasty tendency often is to look down on these customs, ways of life and cultures as uncivilised because they are strangely different to what is common practice in the visitors’ home countries, on these, we hasten to warn all cultural ethno centrists that there is no such thing as a superior culture or civilization. Cultures of South Africans will no doubt look strange to the visitors, but these are what distinguish South Africans and indeed, Africans generally from the rest of the world. The governing theme/slogan for this World Cup and any other one, we propose should be: “Unity in diversity, while together we celebrate the advancement of civilization through sports.”
Visitors/tourists must keep within the laws of the land and so discipline themselves to tame their enthusiasm during the high points of the game, and also keep their disappointments/depressions within the laws of the land during the low points of the game. In the event of any untowardness, rather than anyone taking the laws into their hands, such unpleasantness, wrongs, offences and unruly behaviours should be reported at the nearest security post. The success of ensuring the safety and security of persons and properties at the event venues will also be determined by the number or availability and accessibility of such security out-posts.
Visitors/tourists should feel at home, be adventurous within the bounds of the law and common sense, explore South Africa, but they should be disciplined and be wise.
In all mega events across the globe, they will be men and women who are out there for brisk businesses, especially regarding currency exchange, visitors/tourists are to steer clear of black markets and these criminals, only authorised Bureau de Change should be patronised. Having been so warned, anyone who embarks on this foolhardy and misadventure because they want plenty money in their pockets, do that at their own risk and must not turn round to blame anyone at the end of the day.
Adventures in any country should have their limits. Therefore, visitors are to be circumspect, go out with tour guides, go out in twos, in threes or in a group and should keep to the rules and regulations of wherever they visit, together with those of the hotels in which they are lodging; return early to their hotel rooms and avoid the temptation of over-enjoyment only to return late to their hotel rooms; every visitor/tourist should store all emergency numbers as provided by the police on their mobile phones and should not fail to use as when necessary, but should avoid the temptation of putting such lines into indiscriminate and abusive uses.
Since the advancement of civilization, gang cultures have not only become prevalent in all countries of the world, but have also become pervasive and South Africa is not an exception. Visitors/tourists are therefore, advised to go to South Africa with an open mind that in all countries of the world including South Africa, there is the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the positive and the negatives, peace and violence, violence and peace. It is therefore, our candid advice to visitors/tourists to avoid all flashpoints/hot zones while in South Africa.
In that open-mindedness, make as many friends as you can and enjoy the hospitality of the people of South Africa, but do nothing in excess. And to the teams, we wish them all they have wished themselves.
***Please pass on this editorial to anyone you know that is going to SA to watch the World Cup.