Courts will operate around the clock in KwaZulu-Natal during the soccer World Cup to allow 2010 visitors, who become victims of crime, to testify before returning home.

And Durban’s safety and security plans are in place for the football showpiece way ahead of the rest of the country, while residents will enjoy the same level of policing, regardless of commitments made to Fifa by the city for the safety of the hundreds of thousands of football fans expected to descend for the month-long event.

Steve Middleton, the deputy chief at the Durban’s metro police unit, also told the media at the Moses Mabhida stadium on Monday, that 700 extra personnel were undergoing training and the annual R600-million budget for the metro police had not been overrun to provide for the Fifa extravaganza.

Regional head of the department of justice in KwaZulu-Natal, Brigitte Shabalala confirmed a 2010 committee within her department was setting up special courts for the duration of the World Cup.

“Special weekend and festive season courts have already worked very well in the Durban area in the past. We now have a Fifa 2010 World Cup team, which is working on setting up these courts in all the major areas expected to be affected by the World Cup across the province. These special courts will enable witnesses to testify before they go home.”

Shabalala said personnel would be beefed up. “We are looking to employ extra staff generally to assist us, particularly interpreters who can help the foreign visitors,” she said.

On what Durban could learn from last month’s Confederations Cup, Middleton said, the eight out of 10 score the country achieved in Fifa’s report for safety and security at the event was well deserved. “But, there are certain tactical issues which we will have to improve on throughout the country.”

According to media reports after the event, which was a curtainraiser for the World Cup, volunteers failed to pitch for work, stewards went on strike, drivers got lost when transporting officials and the metro police proved “problematic” at times. Also, signage in and around the stadiums was inadequate.

Head of the strategic unit and 2010 planning at the eThekwini Municipality, Julie-May Ellingson, said Durban had learned some valuable lessons.

“Security doesn’t only relate to policing, but to the general organisation of the event, particularly around transport and the prioritisation of information and things such as maps. If tourists don’t know where to go it can create a security risk.”

Ellingson said good communication and integration between private security companies, SAPS and Metro policing was crucial.

Middleton said Durban’s safety and security plans for big events were “streets ahead” of the other host cities in the country.

Wanting to reassure Durban residents they too would be safe during the event, Middelton said not all metro police would be deployed for the competition.

“We have 400 new members undergoing training at the moment, 140 have already finished and another 300 will start their training on January 1st next year – that’s more than 700 extra officers. Altogether we will have 2 800 personnel on the ground working in four shifts. Area police stations will continue to operate as usual.”