PRETORIA, South Africa, January 18 – Football’s Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off this weekend, will enjoy the same kind of security as the World Cup in South Africa three years ago, organisers said Thursday.
“For this tournament, the operational security concept as was applied during the 2010 FIFA World Cup is being followed, on a reduced scale,” said Elias Mawela, who heads the country’s top security operations, Natjoints.
The structure groups several government services and departments, from police and defence forces to the weather service.
Authorities have stepped up surveillance and security from ports of entry to the various stadiums.
Phased security will ensure safety around stadiums during matches, including permanent aerial surveillance.
The competition kicks off on Saturday at Soccer City and the final on February 10 is also at the Soweto stadium which hosted the 2010 World Cup final.
Each of the 16 teams will have a permanent police escort.
Security forces will have their “finger on the pulse of every team and match official”, said Mawela.
South Africa was lauded for its successful World Cup security programme.
But there was a scare last November when children threw rocks at the Zambian team bus outside Soccer City, shattering glass and inflicting facial injuries on goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
Security tainted the Cup of Nations in Angola in 2010.
Separatist rebels in Angola’s oil-rich Cabinda enclave opened fire at the Togolese team bus when it crossed the border from Congo-Brazzaville, killing two members of the delegation and seriously injuring another.
South Africa is adamant such a scenario will not happen.
“We don’t envisage it happening, but we plan for terrorism,” said Natjoints commander David Garnett.