A frantic behind-the-scenes drama was playing out at Safa House last Friday to secure the safety of international superstars and tourists attending the World Cup curtain-raiser, the Confederations Cup.

On the same day football boss Danny Jordaan told American decision-makers that a security plan was in place for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The Confederations Cup kicks off next Sunday when Bafana Bafana play Iraq at Ellis Park.

The Mail & Guardian can reveal that:

  • Until Thursday last week no security company had been appointed to safeguard VIPs, hotels, stadiums and training grounds;
  • A consortium comprising the Swedish-based security conglomerate Securitas and local security firm Stallion Security was awarded the multimillion-rand tender, but walked away from negotiations after the organising committee (OC) refused to pay “proper” salaries to security guards and management; and
  • A relatively small and unknown Cape Town-based security firm with a limited national footprint, Chippa Protection Services, was appointed by the OC last Friday and ordered to dispatch guards immediately to the four stadiums to be used for Confederations Cup matches.

The New York Times reported this week that Jordaan, the OC’s chief executive, addressed an American crowd in Manhattan last Friday, wooing them to attend the World Cup and addressing fears about security.

“We believe we have a security plan in place and the World Cup will be played without incident. We now have the British Lions rugby team on tour. Next is the Confederations Cup. And if it goes without incident no one will say a word. But if it doesn’t we will never hear the end of it,” Jordaan was quoted saying.

But on the same day, Jordaan’s colleagues had to scramble to appoint security guards to deliver basic security services to players and teams attending the Confederations Cup.

The roots of the mess
The M&G has traced the roots of the mess to February 25, when the tender for the provision of “static and VIP protectors” was advertised by the OC. The tender document states that the tournament requires 1 182 security guards to protect the hotels where players, administrators and referees are staying, the four stadiums used for the Confederations Cup (Ellis Park, Loftus, Bloemfontein and Rustenburg), and the training grounds for the eight participating teams.

The guards should have been trained “to the standards as determined by the OC and Fifa” and were to be deployed from June 4. A small number of security guards had to be placed at the ticket centres in four cities.

But, until the M&G sent the OC questions Wednesday, no award was made. Several industry insiders told the M&G this week about the OC’s mad rush to appoint guards after receiving the newspaper’s questions.

On Thursday last week, representatives from the Securitas/Stallion consortium were summoned urgently to Safa House. There they were told for the first time that the consortium was the preferred bidder and had to dispatch guards to the four stadiums the same night.

The M&G was told that afternoon by OC spokesperson Rich Mkhondo that an award had been made. What he omitted to say was that the award had only been made a few hours before.

According to inside sources, Securitas/Stallion agreed to the award and hastily made plans to provide the required guards.

But on Friday afternoon negotiations broke down after the parties couldn’t agree on payment terms for guards and management. The M&G has it on impeccable authority that the OC offered to pay R300 a security guard for a 12-hour shift.

This, according to industry insiders, is “substantially lower” than the going rate for guards at big sporting events. According to security experts it is quite common for these guards to be paid between R300 and R400 for three-hour shifts at big events.

The Securitas/Stallion consortium subsequently withdrew from the contract. This was confirmed by Stallion chief executive Clive Zulberg, who told the M&G “our offer was a lot more than what they budgeted for”. He declined to divulge more information due to a non-disclosure agreement.

Securitas spokesperson Gisela Lindstrand confirmed the firm’s “ongoing discussions regarding delivering security services for the Fifa Confederations Cup in South Africa, but it is our policy never to disclose any information about negotiations or discussions with potential customers”.

The withdrawal of Securitas/Stallion left the OC without security guards 17 days before the kick-off.

In the meanwhile the OC made an “ad hoc award” to Cape Town-based Helios Security, which also guards Safa House, to protect the stadiums and equipment stored there. Helios director Reza de Bruyns confirmed that they were asked to protect the stadiums until Tuesday this week, when they were informed that Chippa would take over.

A small Muldersdrift-based security outfit, Interactive Security, also received an ad hoc appointment to guard the four ticketing offices.

After the M&G made further queries, Mkhondo confirmed that the negotiations with Securitas/Stallion had failed and that the OC reserved the right to start negotiations with the “reserve bidder. This is what happened in this case.”

‘We give the guys one day’s training’
The reserve bidder was Chippa Protection Services. Managing director Siviwe “Chippa” Mpengesi told the M&G the company was under “tremendous pressure” to deliver the security services on such short notice. “We received our letter of appointment on Friday [May 29] and started on Monday.”

On whether it was difficult for Chippa to deliver such crucial services in a short period, Mpengesi answered: “Of course. Because of the nature of the contract, we needed to recruit a lot of guards and clothe them … Of course it was a challenge, but it won’t be the first challenge we face.”

But he added that his company did not have the capacity to provide VIP protection services and had outsourced that part of the contract.

According to a company profile Chippa was registered in 2002, has 1 600 registered security guards on its books and is providing security services to a range of education facilities in the Western Cape, as well as to Eskom, Transnet, Metrorail and the police.

Mpengesi confirmed that he had had to hire new guards to fulfil the Confederations Cup tender. “We had people on our database. We also made use of agents. What we did was to give the guys a one-day training on how to conduct security at special events. We are very strong on training.”

Mpengesi said all his guards were registered with the Private Security Regulatory Authority (Psira) and the OC was going to vet them from Thursday. “If they have criminal records, we are not going to use them.”

He admitted to “lowering our profit margin” to be able to provide security guards for the tournament.

He dismissed criticism from industry insiders that his company was inexperienced: “The so-called big companies must accept that we’re in a new era, that things have changed dramatically. They always do that — when we were awarded a waste-management tender, they lodged an appeal with Cape Town to say we are a small company. We are not small. Our turnover is not less than R7-million a month.”

‘This is shocking’
Institute for Security Studies expert Johan Burger told the M&G on Thursday he was “shocked” that a few days before the start of the tournament security wasn’t in place.

“I know that the organising committee and the police have been planning for these events for the past four to five years. The Confederations Cup is supposed to be a curtain-raiser for the big event. This is shocking to say the least.”

The National Intelligence Agency had to vet all security guards for events such as the Confederations Cup. “To do proper vetting takes at least a few weeks.

“All this means to me is more pressure on the South African Police Service, who already have their hands full. It looks as if somebody was not doing their work here and I’m afraid to say all fingers are pointing at the OC.”

The same New York Times article quoted recent research by the international Grail Research company that found security was still the overriding concern for people considering attending the 2010 World Cup.

Grail’s Kurian Thomas was quoted as saying: “There is general agreement that South Africa is not known to be a very secure country and that there is a higher risk to personal safety than in the rest of the Western world. There are concerns, and it could be a detriment to people going to the World Cup.”

The OC’s security portfolio is headed by former prisons boss Linda Mti, who left the correctional services department under a cloud. The M&G revealed last year that Mti had been convicted for drunk driving in 1992 and was facing a similar charge to be heard by the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court this year.

PUBLICATION: Mail & Guardian Online
DATED: 5th June 2009