Police Take Over World Cup Security (WSJ 15/6/10)
Police took over security at World Cup stadiums in Cape Town and Durban on Monday after stewards for soccer games at the venues walked off the job over a pay dispute with their employer, FIFA, the sport’s governing body, said.
The decision to bring in the police in the two coastal cities comes after riot police were called in late Sunday to disperse an angry crowd of workers at Durban’s Moses Mabhida stadium hours after Germany’s victory over Australia.
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A police officer fires tear gas at protesting workers near the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban late Sunday.
South Africa has been the scene of several strikes and violent protests this year, most recently a three-week wage strike that paralyzed the freight rail and ports, as well as angry outbursts among residents in poor townships and shanty towns who were frustrated with what they say is the slow delivery of services such as electricity.
FIFA’s local organizing committee said the police were asked to take over the security in Durban and at Cape Town’s Green Point stadium to cover for workers protesting against the Stallion Security Consortium. Security at the other eight stadiums in the country is contracted to other private security firms.
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“Although we have respect for worker’s rights, we find it unacceptable for them to disrupt match-day proceedings and will not hesitate to take action in such instances,” said Danny Jordaan, chief executive officer of the World Cup organizing committee.
Chief of communications for the committee, Rich Mkhondo, said the walkouts won’t affect the dozens of workers in charge of checking bags and running spectators through metal detectors.
Instead, it will affect the guards whose job it is to keep watch over the stadiums and remain on the lookout for major threats, a job that he said police will be able to take over.
Mr. Mkhondo added the change wouldn’t cost additional money. “You don’t have to pay extra for duties that are normally carried out by the police,” he said. Mr. Mkhondo referred questions about the Johannesburg bus strike to city officials. “We have no control over the buses,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, bus drivers at Johannesburg’s Soccer City, the largest World Cup venue, went on strike after a match between the Netherlands and Denmark, frustrating thousands of fans trying to get home. Drivers for the Johannesburg Municipal Bus Rapid Transit System complained of shift changes and refused to drive thousands of fans back into the central part of the city. The stranded spectators were forced to find trains or alternative road travel.
Late Sunday, police dispersed an angry crowd of stadium workers at the Durban stadium after the game there. According to police, the commotion began when some workers got upset over how much they were being paid. There were no reports of serious injuries.
The commotion erupted just outside the stadium’s media center. A loud boom spurred scores of reporters to rush outside, where crowds of stewards were shouting, a few of them lobbing objects at the police. A couple of subsequent popping noises twice prompted crowds of bystanders to retreat into the media center.
Any disruption to the World Cup, being hosted for the first time by an African country, could embarrass President Jacob Zuma and his government.
Mr. Zuma was elected more than a year ago on the back of strong support from labor union allies who have demanded the governing African National Congress do more to alleviate poverty and create jobs in a country where unemployment stands at about 25%.
The National Union of Mineworkers threatened Monday to strike at state power company Eskom Holdings Ltd. after rejecting an offered 6% wage increase. The union is demanding an 18% increase. Each of the stadiums has backup power generators, but a strike could threaten electricity supplies to homes, bars and restaurants where the World Cup is being aired.