There will be much aerial activity taking place over the Johannesburg, Rustenburg and Pretoria areas around the stadia and certain airfields this week.

The South African Police Service and South African Air Force conduct various joint operational and intelligence aerial exercises in preparation of The FIFA Confederations Cup and 2010 Soccer World Cup.

ON VIDEO: Exercise Visuals: Watch hostage drama snippets of the bad guys getting nabbed.

Aiming at interrupting illegally flying aircraft, the exercises known as ’Exercise Shield 3’ are preparing all security forces to be ready for any challenges during the soccer tournaments.

According to SAPS 2010 Senior Operational Planner David Garnett, the security forces are confident in dealing with a number of issues they may face including crowd control and management, influx and identification of visitors into South Africa, hooliganism, terrorists, plane hijackers and validation of game tickets.

“Our techniques are amongst the most advanced in the world and I can give you the assurance that we are in a position to deal with any contingency that may occur, absolutely anything,” said Garnett.

Moreover there are between 35,000 and 40,000 joint forces preparing for the World Cup. “Therefore, anyone wishing to visit SA should do so and enjoy themselves,” advises Garnet.

All units of the police service namely the Dog Unit, Bomb Disposal experts, Hostage Negotiators, National Air Wing, National Intervention Unit, Borderline and Ports of Entry as well as Military Special Forces will be utilized for the preparation with the aim of intercepting any airborne threats.

“We are quite positive of our ability through the deployment of our resources and the experiences of our members to deal with any of the incidences that might come our way,” said Garnett.

According to the National Joint Operation spokesperson, Sally de Beer, anyone wishing to fly in the restricted airspace areas would have to apply for a flight authorization at least 24 hours in advance.

“The Civil Aviation Authority has issued a Notice to all Airmen which restricts but does not ban flights in certain airspaces in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg between the 16 and 19 March,” said De Beer.

Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Deputy Defence Minister Fezile Bhengu, Chief of Joint Operations General Temba Matanzima and senior Police and Military officials attended the event, which almost succumbed to the heavy afternoon downpour of rain.

In the simulated exercise, the security forces in fighter jets known as Hawks approached an “illegally flying aircraft” and forced it to descend and land at Swartkops Air Force Base, where a group of armed police and military personnel took up position.

In the event of any hostages or illegal substances such as explosives on board the plane, hostage negotiators were called to the scene. The dog unit dispatched a dog to sniff out explosives, which were taken away by a specially designed robot. The emergency and fire extinguishers were on standby should the bomb detonate.

Some of the “hostages” who took part in this simulated exercise were popular radio hosts Gareth Cliff of 5fm and Jacaranda’s Maurice Carpede.

Garnett said the security forces were working together with the international community and Interpol to list some of the possible threats and people who are known to engage in hooliganism.

“Threats change from day to day, some are eliminated and some grow. And that information is provided to the operational arms who re-plan extensively to counter any threats,” said Garnett.

Garnett confirmed that there are two more provinces, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, which need to take part in similar exercises.

Thereafter, a review of all provinces tested will take place and where necessary the forces will go back.

“It is a work in progress. It is a constant learning curve as we go through and make sure that the latest technology, the latest equipment and the latest information is available and given to all provinces in order to allow them to plan accordingly,” said Garnett.

PUBLICATION: Sowetan Online
AUTHOR: Thobeka Magcai
DATED: 18th March 2009