Rioting soccer hooligans armed with petrol bombs and rocks are ready to assault opposing fans. But from behind their hand-held shields, a squad of police officers keep a watchful eye on these hooligans, ready to react if necessary. But the attempts by these demonstrators to break through the police line are fruitless as the police have been trained how to handle rioting soccer hooligans – in fact, these demonstrators play second fiddle as they are taken down and arrested by SAPS members. Scenarios like these could occur during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and therefore it is important to train SAPS members to handle such situations.

Article and photos by Kotie Geldenhuys

In May 2008 a South African delegation visited France to get better acquainted with the methods employed by their counterparts during large events such as the 1998 Fifa World Cup and the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Two months later in July 2008 the SAPS requested the French police to assist them with training in crowd control at large events.

For 4 weeks the French National Police trained 120 trainers of the SAPS in effective management of unruly crowds using some of their newly acquired equipment. The train-the-trainer programme included, among others, manoeuvres to maintain order with normal platoons and tactical platoons.

On 30 October 2008 the SAPS and the French National Police successfully completed the 2010 crowd management training programme with different simulations at the Pretoria Basic Training Provision Institution. The first was to demonstrate how the SAPS would handle clashes between supporters and stadium stewards outside the stadium. The SAPS resolved the situation by negotiating with the protestors. After having been calmed down, the crowd was eventually allowed entry into the stadium. In another scenario the police demonstrated how they would restrain an out-of-control crowd using stun grenades, water cannons and shields to prevent the crowd from causing disruptions.

Members of the French police were impressed with the simulation. Insp-Genl Emile Perez from the French police said that what they had seen after only a few weeks of training was impressive. “For the first one, it is very good,” he said.

The French Ambassador to South Africa, Mr Dennis Pietton, said the skills transfer between France and South Africa will not only be valuable for the SAPS during the 2010 tournament, but will leave a lasting legacy of strengthening capacity and capabilities.

Thousands of police officials will learn the newly acquired skills to ensure effective crowd control at the Confederations Cup later this year and at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

From what we saw during the simulation, it seems that the SAPS is well-prepared to deal with the eventuality of unruly behaviour of spectators and crowds during the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

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The SAPS also had their new technically advanced water cannon truck on display on 30 October 2008. The water cannon truck was imported from Israel. The aim with this water cannon is to help manage unruly crowds effectively and promote stability during the 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Sen Supt Fiezel Ally from Division: Visible Policing told the media that the water cannon is fitted with a digital camera and water with dyes and tear gas.

“We are still going to be trained to use this modern facility and we are confident that this will enhance our effort to maintain stability during the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup,” he said.

AUTHOR: Kotie Geldenhuys
DATED: 4th January 2009