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FIFA clams up on security

2010-06-16 17:04
Johannesburg - FIFA and South Africa's World Cup organisers went on the defensive on Wednesday about security issues at five World Cup stadiums caused by a stewards' strike over low pay.

The spokespeople for FIFA and the organising committee declined to address the problems at their daily news briefing, referring all questions to police.

"We have nothing further to say about the security issue, please call the police," South Africa organisers' spokesperson Rich Mkhondo said. "They are able to answer all security-related matters. All. Not me."

Police have taken responsibility for both Johannesburg stadiums, and the venues in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, since stewards began protests on Sunday night when police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse stewards who were angry about their wages and refused to leave Durban's Moses Mabhida stadium.

'People before profit'

In Durban on Wednesday, stewards joined community activists in a peaceful protest of about 800 people outside City Hall to protest the World Cup, which they say has directed public funds away from providing housing and jobs.

Protesters held placards that said "Apartheid Still Exists" and "World Cup for All! People Before Profit."

The dispute spread to Johannesburg on Tuesday.

South African police deployed 1 000 officers to screen more than 54 000 fans arriving for Brazil's 2-1 victory over North Korea at Ellis Park after employees from security contractor Stallion walked out hours before the evening kick-off.

"We are confident that we will not compromise the safety of the tournament or our day-to-day normal policing," National Commissioner General Bheki Cele said.

Mkhondo did not say which agency or security firm would provide security at the 84 000-capacity Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg when Argentina plays South Korea in a 13:30 (11:30 GMT) kick-off on Thursday.

"I would love to talk about this issue, but the police will be able to talk about this issue," he said.

Extra policing bill

Mkhondo also declined to address how the organising committee, which is responsible for all national and venue security at the World Cup, would pay for using additional police.

Asked whether organisers were preparing to fire Stallion, which was contracted to provide security at the five stadiums now under police control, Mkhondo said he had "no comment about this issue".

FIFA spokesperson Nicolas Maingot said he was not aware if the organisation would be required to help fund the policing bill.

In March, FIFA gave an additional $100m to help South African organisers upgrade team training camps.

FIFA was criticised on Wednesday by activists who said football's governing body had too much influence in South Africa.

"Today's march is to give a voice to people who have been left out of the World Cup and to protect people who are being exploited by companies involved in the World Cup," said Lubna Nadvi, from the Durban Social Forum.

'People have benefited'

Cyril Xaba, a special adviser to the provincial prime minister in KwaZulu-Natal, said the government could not intervene in the labour dispute, which could be settled by a state-funded arbitration committee.

"People have benefited from the World Cup," he said. "Roads are built, stadiums were built and that brought jobs. There was also more work in the hospitality industry and more taxes raised by the government - so everyone benefits from this, even when it's not visible straight away."

"Of course, we are not naive and we realise that not everyone can benefit directly," he said. "I sympathise with them."

Part of Durban's beachfront was cleared for fan zones, and street traders and fishermen have been excluded from the areas.

The protesters sang, prayed, danced and chanted slogans as they marched to the coastal city's town hall. Police, many of them carrying shotguns, kept watch but did not intervene.

As the protesters gathered in the shade of trees in a dusty downtown park, impoverished residents collected water in empty bottles from a broken tap.

About 3km away, fans gathered near a giant temporary stage on the beach and listened to rap music at a fan zone before a Group H match between Spain and Switzerland.
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