Two well-known radio presenters were “taken hostage” on Tuesday in a police and South African National Defence Force simulation of security threats to the Confederation Cup and the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

In the exercise, Idols judge and 5fm radio presenter Gareth Cliff and Maurice Carpede from 94.2 Jacaranda were dragged out of a briefing by two armed masked men and forced into a SAPS Cessna Sovereign Citation jet at Swartkops air force base outside Pretoria.

Police, defence force and other government departments – forming part of the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Joints) – responded by activating land and air teams.

As the rain pelted down, drenched journalists, ministers and foreign delegates stood outside to watch the proceedings unfold.

After sharp shooters arrived by helicopter, the tarmac quickly filled with police and military task teams, ambulances and fire engines. The reaction appeared seamless.

After the plane was forced to land by two fighter planes, Cliff emerged with a hand grenade strapped to his head and was forced down on the ground.

The masked men were quickly removed by police and transported away in an inconspicuous car.

The simulation forms part of Exercise Shield Three – a joint exercise that will be taking place in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg around the four stadia in the two provinces.

It is aimed at honing security-related skills to ensure a safe environment in host cities during major events, including securing the national airspace.

It got under way on Monday and will be “running” until Friday.

Briefing media after the exercise, Director David Garnett, the senior operations planner for 2010, said South Africans and foreigners alike should feel confident of their safety over any major event.

Since 2004, he said the country had hosted more than 141 major events and it remained a world leader in terms of managing these.

“We are in a position to deal with any contingency. Absolutely anything, You are going to be safe, you are going to be secure,” he said.

“Joints” is constantly informed of any security threats by the intelligence co-ordinating committee. However, Garnett remained confident that no threats were envisaged.

Some potential threats that could present themselves arose from crowd control, an influx of foreigners into the country and counterfeiting of soccer tickets.

Police Director Sally de Beer has urged those living in the cities affected by the exercise to please be patient as aerial activity would be greatest between 2pm and midnight.

“Our activities will be very intense on Wednesday March 18 and Thursday March 19 with aerial simulations both during the day and night.

“We regret any inconvenience especially in terms of noise that it may cause to some individuals.”

The defence force and police also thanked the celebrities for being such great sports and supporting their endeavours to pull off the best and safest world cup ever.

Speaking after his hostage performance, Cliff said the simulation was “very exciting” and he was delighted to be part of it.

“I was really impressed,” he said, adding that he had total confidence in the personnel on the ground and in the air.

“What saddens me is that generally we don’t know enough or we don’t care enough about what our police and military are doing.

“These guys are really sharp,” he said. – Sapa

DATED: 18th March 2009