Next year’s soccer world cup is safe in the hands of South Africa’s law enforcement agencies, national police commissioner Bheki Cele said.  Speaking at the unveiling of the Western Cape police’s new “war room” in Cape Town, he said there was no reason for doubt.  “This is one area… where I sleep like a baby, when it comes to 2010,” he said.

“Let’s be clear on it, 2010 is safe in the hands of South Africans. And let’s stop this thing of focusing on security. Let’s focus on the beautiful game.”  He said those with issues about South African security should “go somewhere else, where people are shooting helicopters, where drug lords are shooting helicopters”.  Cele said the police had planned thoroughly for the event, and knew exactly what would be happening until July 11.

They knew how many tickets each country had bought – most of them by the United States – and even had names of some of the people that were coming.  Among the issues the police were looking at was the fact that both Koreas – North and South – had qualified for the tournament.  “We are far ahead in dealing with those matters. We are just imagining what will happen if we have both in the final.”

The two Koreas have historically had a tense relationship, though there have been signs of a thaw in recent years.  Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the “showpiece” should be about soccer, not security.  “Our people must go all out and ensure that they enjoy the beautiful game whilst the law enforcement agencies will do what they’re supposed to do.”

The war room boasts a state-of-the-art video monitoring room, where operators can tap into closed circuit cameras across the city. They are also able to bring up feed from cameras mounted in police vehicles.  Preston Voskuil, a director in the office of the provincial commissioner, said the operators currently had access to about 1000 cameras at 10 “sites”, including Cape Town’s camera network.

Other sites included a Cape Flats school where a headmistress was murdered earlier this year, shopping complexes, and two police stations – Cape Town Central and Khayelitsha.  Voskuil said the system was the first of its kind in South Africa.  “We are taking existing infrastructure and we will have the ability to patch in where and when we want, based on crime intelligence, early warning, crime patterns and events.  “We want to target places at risk, public places. You can put a camera on every corner. You can’t afford to put a policeman on every corner.”

DATED: 27th November 2009